Recent national studies include the now in progress study on the role of government in agriculture and the recently concluded study on the role of federal government in education.
THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN EDUCATION
LWVUS Position Statement
The League of Women Voters believes that the federal government shares with other levels of government the responsibility to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12. A quality public education is essential for a strong, viable, and sustainable democratic society and is a civil right.
The League believes that the role of the federal government should include the following:
- Provide leadership and vision to promote a quality education for all children;
- Provide broad common standards developed by educational experts upon which states and local education agencies can build;
- Provide a suggested curricular structure or framework as a guide to state and local education agencies to develop their own curricula;
- Provide a national assessment that clearly informs teachers, parents and students about how well individual students have mastered criteria established at the national level;
- Provide a national assessment that informs districts how well their populations compare to other populations similar to theirs; and
- Provide a combination of competitive grants and non-competitive funding to states and local school districts to achieve equity among states and populations.
The League of Women Voters believes that an equitable, quality public education is critical for students. While the League recognizes that there are instances where the federal government’s involvement is the only way to achieve universal change (desegregation, special needs population, gender equity), we also recognize that primary responsibility for public education resides with the states. In accordance with the League of Women Voters’ position on Equal Rights, we continue to support equity in public education for all through:
- Broad guidelines for accountability, leaving implementation to the state and local education agencies;
- Adequate funding sources that support the broad goals of national standards; and
- Mechanisms for local and state funding with adequate federal support for mandates that require less burdensome, compliance-based reporting and regulations.
The League of Women Voters believes a basic role of the federal government in funding education should be to achieve equity among states and populations on the basis of identified needs. This should be done with full understanding that equity does not mean equal, given that some populations are more expensive to educate than others and some localities have specific needs.
The League believes that the federal government should be primarily responsible for funding any programs mandated by the federal government on local education agencies. Although the League recognizes equity in education depends on meeting basic human needs of children and of their families, the costs associated with providing equitable access to safe neighborhoods and secure housing do not belong in the education budget. Major programs of federal funding for public education (i.e., Elementary and Secondary Education Act) should be targeted toward children living in poverty and/or children with special needs. The federal government has the responsibility to monitor and support access to the following:
- High quality teaching and learning, supported by quality current learning materials and well maintained educational facilities;
- and Access to health care needs (i.e., hearing, vision, dental, immunization, school-based health clinics at the secondary level, etc.) and nutritionally adequate food (i.e., school-based meals under “free and reduced meal programs”).
The League of Women Voters believes that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial in building the foundation for educational attainment and greatly impact success or failure in later life. Additionally, the League believes quality, developmentally appropriate and voluntary early learning experiences should be available to all children, with federally funded opportunities going first to children of poverty and/or with special needs. The League believes that the federal government should support the following:
- Early childhood education programs that include funding for parent education and involve child development, health, nutrition and access to other supportive services such as mental health care for all children and their families;
- Research that documents quality early childhood education programs; and
- Research that demonstrates the importance of linking state and local community partnerships with effective early childhood education programs and services.
Some background on “The Federal Role in Public Education” study by LWVUS:
At its Biannual Convention held in Atlanta in June 2010, delegates approved a national study proposal titled: “The Federal Role in Public Education.” This proposal had been proposed and worked on by a small band of Leaguers from LWV Palo Alto, Berkeley, and Los Altos-Mountain View (California) with assistance from the LWVC Offboard Director and Legislative Consultant of Pre-K – 12 . Following that approval the LWVUS Board solicited applications from Leaguers all over the country to serve on the study committee. The study committee members who were selected had prior background in education, and did extensive additional research on this topic in order to compose the fifteen study questions that were made available to all Leagues in the United States. Study committee members also composed background materials for study participants to read and discuss, as well as suggesting a wide span of education-related books. After this lengthy process Leaguers gathered all over the country to discuss and come to consensus on “The Federal Role in Education.”
The LWVUS Board approved a new Education position at the March 2012 (March 25, 2012) Board meeting. The position is based on responses received from the 377 Leagues across the country who participated in the Education Study in the fall of 2011. Thanks to the many local and state Leagues and ILOs who held meetings, involved their communities and worked to reach consensus on this critical issue of importance to all Americans. Thank you to Committee Chairs Peg Hill (TX) and Joanne Leavitt (CA).
THE PRIVATIZATION STUDY
The LWVUS Board approved a new position on Privatization at its June 2012 meeting. The position is based on responses received from the 227 Leagues across the country that participated in the Privatization Study. Thanks to the many local and state Leagues and ILOs that held meetings, involved their communities, and worked to reach consensus on this important issue. Committee Chair Janis McMillen (KS) and her Committee: Diane DiIanni (TN), Carole Garrison (VA), Ann Henkener (OH), Cathy Lazarus (CA), Nora Leech (WA), Muriel Strand (CA) and Ted Volskay (SC) are to be commended for their excellent work and leadership.
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that when governmental entities consider the transfer of governmental services, assets and/or functions to the private sector, the community impact and goals of such transfers must be identified and considered. Further, the LWV believes that transparency, accountability, and preservation of the common good must be ensured.
The League believes that some government provided services could be delivered more efficiently by private entities; however, privatization is not appropriate in all circumstances. Privatization is not appropriate when the provision of services by the government is necessary to preserve the common good, to protect national or local security or to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society. While the League recognizes that the definition of core government services will vary by level of government and community values, services fundamental to the governance of a democratic society should not be privatized in their entirety. These services include the electoral process, justice system, military, public safety, public health, education, transportation, environmental protection and programs that protect and provide basic human needs.
The decision to privatize a public service should be made after an informed, transparent planning process and thorough analysis of the implications of privatizing service delivery. While specific criteria will vary by service and local conditions, the League believes the following considerations apply to most decisions to transfer public services, assets and functions to the private sector:
- •On-going and timely communication with stakeholders and the public;
- •Statement of the circumstances as they exist and what is to be gained;
- •Definition of the quality, level and cost of service expected;
- •Assessment of the private market; whether there are providers to assure competitive pricing and delivery; (in some cases there may not be multiple providers if a service is so specialized. i.e. high tech, airports.)
- •Cost-benefit analyses evaluating short and long term costs of privatization, including the ongoing costs of contract administration and oversight;
- •An understanding of the impact on customers, the broader community, environment and public employees;
- An open, competitive bidding process with clearly defined criteria to be used in selecting a contractor;
- •A provision and process to ensure the services or assets will be returned to the government if a contractor fails to perform;
- A data-driven selection of private entities whose goals, purposes, and means are not incompatible with the public well-being;
- The careful negotiation and drafting of the controlling privatization contract; and
- Adequate oversight and periodic performance monitoring of the privatized services by the government entity to ensure that the private entity is complying with all relevant laws and regulations, contract terms and conditions, and ethical standards, including public disclosure and comment.
The League believes that the enactment of state laws and issuance of regulations to control the process and delivery of privatization within a state’s jurisdiction is often appropriate and desirable. Best practices for government regulation of the privatization process should include the following requirements:
- An open process that allows for citizen input and oversight in a timely manner;
- A reasonable feasibility study and project evaluation appropriate to the size and scope of the project;
- The establishment of carefully crafted criteria for selection of the private-entity (beyond the lowest cost bid);
- Additional consideration for local bidders in order to support the local economy;
- The retention of liability and responsibility with the government entity;
- Allowance for and promotion of opportunities for innovation and collaboration; and,
- •Provision for employment, benefits and training plans on behalf of employees displaced as a result of privatization.
Above is the Statement of Position as Announced by National Board, June 2012