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ESSA IMPLEMENTATION: During Hearing with Education Secretary, House Republicans Take Issue with Proposed ESSA Rules

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“And while [ED’s] path includes road signs and guardrails, congressional Republicans are taking the form of a highway patrol officer giving [ED] a speeding ticket,” said Lovell.

At a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing last week featuring U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Republicans continued to argue that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is overstepping its bounds with proposed regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act late last year. Democrats and ED continued to express their belief that ESSA regulations must include safeguards for students of color, students from low-income families, and other traditionally underserved students.

“The U.S. Department of Education continues on the road to regulation of the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Phillip Lovell, vice president of policy and advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education, in the June 25 edition of Federal Flash, the Alliance’s five-minute video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. “And while [ED’s] path includes road signs and guardrails, congressional Republicans are taking the form of a highway patrol officer giving [ED] a speeding ticket.”

June 25 edition of Federal Flash

In his opening statement, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) raised concerns with ED’s “negotiated rulemaking,” a process by which ED appoints people to serve on a committee to develop regulations, as well as its proposed rule around “supplement, not supplant,” which governs the use of Title I funds. Regarding ED’s proposed rules around accountability, Kline found some policies that he was “pleased to see,” such as how states set long-term goals and measure interim progress, but he also saw “the department’s bad habit for making decisions that must be left to states.”

King’s written testimony acknowledged that ESSA “rightly” shifts more authority to states but also expects more of them, including accountability systems that contain new indicators in addition to test scores and high school graduation rates. He said ED’s proposed regulations on accountability provide states with the flexibility to “create their own vision of an excellent, well-rounded education” and include their own indicators of school quality or student success in their accountability systems. At the same time, however, he added that ED’s regulations continued the law’s strong civil rights legacy.

“The proposed regulations ensure a focus on all students and historically underserved subgroups of students in accountability decisions, and provide safeguards to ensure that all students have an accurate measure of their academic performance, and that parents and communities are informed when students are falling behind,” King said.

U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), top ranking Democrat on the Committee, also invoked the law’s civil rights legacy when stressing the importance of ED’s oversight of the law.

“Fulfilling the promise of the Every Student Succeeds Act rests in successful implementation that honors Congress’s longstanding intent of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; the intent to support, promote and protect, at all levels of government, the right to an equal educational opportunity for every child, regardless of race, income, language status, or disability,” said Scott.

In addition to King’s testimony, the hearing included testimony from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt; Cassie Harrelson, a secondary math teacher for Aurora Public Schools (Colorado); Daria Hall, interim vice president for government affairs and communications as Education Trust; and David R. Schuler, superintendent of Township High School District 214 (Illinois) and president of AASA, the School Superintendent’s Association. Archived video from the hearing and testimony from each of the witnesses are available at http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400831.

King will be back on Capitol Hill this week for another hearing on ESSA implementation when he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on June 29. More information on the hearing, including live video, is available at http://1.usa.gov/28WMjM5. In King’s last appearance before the committee, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told King that ED had overstepped its bounds in some of its proposed ESSA regulations and warned that consequences, including a lawsuit, could be forthcoming if ED continued its current path.

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