One of the candidates running for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction is promising to "get the federal government out of state education." That rhetoric sure sounds good. However, it’s doubtful that this candidate knows much about the federal government’s role in Arizona, or how to get it out of the state without jeopardizing our rural communities and our most vulnerable student populations.
Frank Riggs knows that K-12 education is primarily a responsibility of state and local government. In fact, former Congressman Riggs is the only candidate with an actual record and legislative history of fighting to restore state and local control in K-12 education. But he also understands the truth about the federal government’s involvement in K-12 education, and where the money is, how it’s spent, and what it will take to replace those federal dollars.
Here’s Frank Riggs in his own words:
"State funding for K-12 schools is approximately $4.3 billion, the largest item in the state budget (43% of the General Fund). Federal taxpayer funding for K-12 education is targeted through “categorical” programs and is approximately $1.5 billion. Those programs are for the most disadvantaged segments of the student population: low-income students who qualify for the federal lunch program, students with learning disabilities, non (or limited)-English speaking students, and Native American students.
"Arizona also receives funding to help public charter schools with their start-up and expansion costs. In addition, rural communities that include federal lands (like Payson) receive “PILT” payments (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) to help offset the loss of property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. Communities with large numbers of students living on military installations (like Sierra Vista and Yuma) or on Indian lands receive Impact Aid. Both the PILT payments and Impact Aid payments are targeted to local school districts in those communities.
"As a former U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, I’m very familiar with the federal education programs and will work with the Trump Administration and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to return the responsibility, dollars and decision-making for K-12 education back to the states in a thoughtful and prudent manner that doesn’t put our rural communities and neediest students at-risk.
"I helped pass legislation through the House consolidating the 30+ federal education programs into a single block grant with the stipulation that 95 cents of every dollar had to be spent in the classroom (the Dollars to the Classroom Act). I was the author and sponsor of the HELP Scholarships bill (Helping Empower Low-Income Parents), converting the largest federal education program for K-12 education (Title 1) into scholarships for the neediest families. And I co-sponsored legislation to prohibit spending federal education funds on national testing long before anyone had heard of Common Core and AZ Merit, the state standardized test that is aligned with Common Core.
"I’m the only candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction with an actual record of fighting to restore state and local control in K-12 education. As a member of Congress and the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee, I helped craft legislation dramatically reducing federal funding for K-12 education (and other federal programs) in an attempt to downsize and eventually eliminate the U.S. Dept. of Education. Then President Bill Clinton vetoed those bills leading to shutdowns of the federal government. See United States federal government shutdowns of 1995–1996.
"Unfortunately, we (the Republican majority in Congress) were unable to override Clinton’s vetoes, but we did force him to agree to four consecutive balanced budgets.
"I offer the people of Arizona a record of proven leadership based on my deep and broad experience, not empty, simplistic rhetoric."
As you might know, the Congressional Review Act which Rep. Riggs co-authored/sponsored has been used by the Trump Administration and the current Congress (under a Resolution of Disapproval) to repeal 14 major regulations enacted in the last 90 days of the Obama Administration (including the latest regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act, aka the Elementary and Secondary Education Act).