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Federal Flash: Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary, Plus ESSA Activity in the U.S. House and E-rate at the Federal Communications Commission

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February 10, 2017 01:39 pm


It’s been quite a week for federal education policy. Betsy DeVos is the new U.S. Secretary of Education and there was important action affecting education in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Federal Communications Commission.

Alliance for Excellent Education staffers Phillip Lovell and Nikki McKinney go through the news of the week in the Alliance’s five-minute Federal Flash. Click on the video below to watch.

For those who prefer to read their federal education news, a transcript is also included below the video. For an email alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email us at

PHILLIP LOVELL: Hello, and welcome to Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC, in 5-minutes or less. I’m Phillip Lovell and I’m joined by Nikki McKinney.

It’s been quite a week for federal education policy. Betsy DeVos is the new U.S. Secretary of Education and there was important action affecting education in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Federal Communications Commission.

Let’s start with Secretary DeVos. Nikki?

NIKKI MCKINNEY: In her introductory speech to staff at the US Department of Education, Secretary DeVos responded to the heated debate and concerns that surrounded her nomination. For example, not once did she use the words, “school choice.” Instead, she emphasized the need for people to work together despite their differences. Here’s a clip. [VIDEO CLIP]

LOVELL: On the same day that Secretary DeVos was confirmed, the House of Representatives voted to repeal two education regulations issued by the Obama administration – one on teacher preparation, and one on accountability under ESSA. We’ll focus on the accountability regulation.

Congressional Republicans believe that the Obama Administration overstepped its authority with this regulation, while Congressional Democrats believe that these regulations are fundamental to ensuring equity and excellence for all students. Here are a few clips from the House debate.  [VIDEO CLIP]

MCKINNEY: So, what happens next with ESSA implementation? The path forward is definitely unclear.

Regardless of what happens with the accountability regulation, ESSA is still the education law of the land. This means that the law’s accountability policies – such as identifying and supporting low-performing schools – still stand.

If the Senate passes the House legislation to rescind the regulation, we’ll be missing key clarifications of the law’s vague terms – like what it means to identify schools with “consistently underperforming” subgroups of students. Also, the timeline for ESSA implementation will be in question if Congress nullifies the regulation. That said, we encourage states to stay the course and continue working on their ESSA implementation plans.

LOVELL: Thanks, Nikki.

And finally, two controversial moves from Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

First, the FCC dropped 9 companies that were approved just weeks ago to implement new reforms that would expand internet access to low-income families.

In addition, the FCC rescinded a report issued less than a month ago on the progress made in expanding internet access in schools and libraries under the E-rate program.

In response, Senator Bill Nelson, leading democrat of the committee that oversees the FCC, sent Chairman Pai a scathing letter saying, QUOTE:   The fact that you…retracte[d]…a staff report was extraordinary…Our nation’s students, teachers, and librarians –and this senator–will hold you accountable for any changes that roll back this highly successful and cherished program…


For an email alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email us at

Thanks for watching.


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