Congressman Allen West gave a 25-minute speech on his 2012 platform over the weekend -- expect more in the coming days. Today, though, we tackle education.
"Washington has a good day when it manages not to screw things up too badly. That is equally true when it comes to education. No one is well-served when the federal bureaucracy tries to impose top-down controls on our schools," West said. "Teachers end up hamstrung, parents end up shut out of the decision-making process, and students, our next generation, end up as collateral damage."
His solution to all this hamstringing and shutting-out was simple: Give the power back to parents and the local school boards.
"I know that we can do better. If we really want to, we can get the federal government out of these South Florida schools. We can take ownership of our own kids' futures back," he said. "A nation that refuses to invest in the next generation is paving its way to decline. But that investment does not need to include wasting taxpayer dollars on more bureaucratic policies either. That's why I support giving parents the ability to choose the school best able to meet their child's needs. It's why I support taking power away from teachers' unions."
There you have it: Invest in the next generation, but not with... money.
Predictably, the Broward Teachers' Union disagrees.
"It's probably one of the most completely inaccurate statements I've heard in a long time," said BTU administrator John Tarka. "We are, of course, interested in representing our members, but we know too that public education is one of the cornerstones of our community... It's kind of an unwarranted attack on teachers' unions.
"We really do want to see schools improve," he continued. "We've always said we're interested in what's good for children and what's good for educators."
He also added that federal oversight is necessary to ensure a "constant and consistent curriculum" -- and to make sure schools are getting the support they need. He said state and federal funding was keeping afloat school districts across the country that were in impoverished districts that can't afford quality education.
"They shouldn't get state support, support from the federal government?" Tarka said.
"Some communities are wealthy; some communities are very poor... Does the congressman mean that district rely only on their community for support?"
He conceded that West was right to criticize portions of No Child Left Behind but added that the American Federation of Teachers fought that legislation too.
"It's the kind of statement that's so inflammatory and so baseless... There's a place for criticism, as long as it's constructive criticism." Tarka said. "That kind of a statement by a member of Congress, I think, is irresponsible."