Need for Public Comments Highlighted By Hearing on Federal Government Attempts to Keep Regulating Local Schools

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee held an additional hearing about the proposed implementation regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As noted before, the proposed regulations go well beyond the law passed by Congress as the Department of Education (DOEd) continues seeking to meddle in local schools. The testimony of the witnesses highlights the need for public input pushing back on the federal government’s proposed regulations, which include a potential back door route to reimpose Common Core mandates on the states.

At the hearing, Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the main authors of the ESSA, identified four main areas where the proposed rules are in need of serious revisions:

● Most importantly, the rules leave open an opportunity for the federal government to reimpose Common Core. Even though the language of the ESSA gives the federal government no power to reject state curriculum standards, the proposed regulations require that a state “provide evidence” that it has adopted challenging curriculum standards. The testimony of Dr. Gail Pletnick, superintendent of a school district in Arizona, specifically notes this loophole, asking: “Does [the regulation] equate to the ability to reject the state developed standards based on someone’s opinion they are not challenging?”

● The proposed regulations create what is described as a “summative rating system.” This would require each state to come up with a single rating system for its schools based primarily on scores on federally mandated tests. Nowhere in the ESSA is the department directed to take this action. The bureaucrats have simply made it up.

● The proposed rules would result in the return of federal testing mandates. Sen. Alexander noted that “The heart of the new law is the end of federal test-based accountability.” But the rules ignore that intent, effectively making federal tests and standards the yardstick for any school found to be “needing improvement”

● The timeline for implementation is far too short, with schools expected to begin complying with the regulations by the 2017-18 school year. However, this timeline is so compressed that it makes it near impossible for states to develop their own new accountability systems, which is the main stated purpose of the ESSA.

The proposed regulations from the DOEd contradict the intent of the ESSA and represent a continuing attempt by the federal government to impose a Washington bureaucrat’s idea of what education should be, instead of leaving education policy decisions where they belong: with states and local school districts. Comments on the proposed rules are due by August 1. You can make you voice heard by submitting your comments to the Department of Education at this link.