By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio does not think Missouri should have adopted Common Core educational standards.
"It's another federal initiative to try to make a one-size fits all, and that doesn't work," he said Wednesday during a visit to Hannibal. "It doesn't work in rural school districts. Rural school districts aren't the same as urban districts in Chicago. It comes down to the state. The states should be in charge of their own curriculum."
Graves made the comments during a town hall meeting on education at the Hannibal Early Childhood Center.
Education funding will become part of a difficult federal budget process where there are more needs than dollars, Graves said. He is especially concerned that early childhood programs get their due.
"We just want to make sure they are funded," he said. "They may not be able to get the increase as large as they like, but we want to make sure they see whatever those basic needs are that are covered."
Graves said he has tried to implement changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was last revised 12 years ago as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.
He said one problem with the current system is that schools can miss "one or two criteria" and be placed on a list of failing schools. Graves wants to see schools that meet most of the federal criteria treated as successful schools, even while efforts are made to fix the areas where they fall short.
For students, Graves wants to move children with individualized education programs "off the grid" so that entire programs won't be downgraded due to a specialized programs. Graves said student success should also be measured individually as opposed as a school.
"In smaller schools, you have a huge amount of diversity sometimes when it comes to one year to the next. In large school districts, like in St. Louis or Kansas City, that averages out," he said.
The Education Act has passed the U.S. House, but has not made it through the Senate.
Graves also discussed infrastructure, specifically funding for the Water Resources Development Act, which was reauthorized in 2013 but has no money appropriated to handle the projects. Getting those funds has been complicated by a ban on passing legislation that specifies which projects are to get federal dollars. The ban was meant to prevent what opponents called pork barrel projects, but in some situations the prohibition on project-specific funding has been harmful.
"Since the earmark ban has gone into effect, there is no opportunity for Congress to be able to insert dollars," he said. "It comes down to the administration, which they'll use the Corps of Engineers to make that decision."
Graves said Republicans have proposed solutions to prop up funding for road construction, since revenues are declining from reduced fuel tax collections.
"One of the proposals that's out there is to allow dollars to be raised on the leasing of some of these oil and gas areas that are within federal land, and use those leasing dollars to completely fund the Highway Trust Fund," he said.
Graves said Republicans have been trying open the lands to tap into the resources.
"It goes directly to the system that is using the roads anyway," he said.