The move is aimed at fulfilling pledges to rein in federal influence over education policy.
President Donald Trump is set to sign into law Monday the two resolutions that roll back Obama-era regulations that inform state education officials how they are supposed to implement the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Trump’s signature finalizes the monthslong spat between Democrats and civil rights groups, which slammed the move as rolling back protections for the most underserved students and pulling the rug out from under state education officials as they finalize their implementation plans, and Republicans who argued the Obama regulations went beyond the intent of the law as Congress originally wrote it.
The first resolution prevents the Department of Education from dictating prescriptive requirements for how states and school districts measure achievement, using metrics such as school ratings, timelines for interventions for failing schools and student participation in state assessments. The second resolution negates a rule that dictates specific requirements states must use to determine the effectiveness of teacher-preparation programs.
The elimination of the regulations, coming on the heels of a contentious confirmation process for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is seen by many as the proverbial nail in the coffin for the milieu of goodwill that had built up in the education sphere over the last few years.
“States are supposed to be the leaders on core curriculum and decisions on how to best meet the needs of their students — not Washington bureaucrats,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement. “The repeal of this regulation will help restore that process.”
But nearly 50 civil rights groups urged members of Congress to oppose the resolutions, arguing that the regulations would ensure education officials “faithfully implement the law and meet their legal obligations to historically marginalized groups of students.”
“It is now incumbent on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reassure students, parents, advocates, and Congress that ESSA will be executed consistent with the law and that robust federal oversight will provide meaningful protections for students,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement.
Despite concerns about how the repeal of the rules would impact state officials’ ongoing development of new accountability systems, it doesn’t seem to be impeding progress.
Officials at the Council for Chief State School Officers told state education chiefs last week at their annual legislative conference that the elimination of the regulation shouldn’t impact the process, and indeed, many of the state chiefs said it was not altering their current plans.
“We have been able to stress the importance of states’ needs for clarity, consistency and predictability on their move to ESSA,” Peter Zamora, director of federal relations at the council told the chiefs, reiterating a private conversation with DeVos. “She views states as being key customers of the department, so we can expect the department to be supportive of state leadership.”