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Hearing Uncovers Regulatory Hurdles Faced by Students, Schools

The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing today to examine the scope of federal education mandates, including data collection requirements and paperwork burdens, and analyze how compliance with these mandates creates unnecessary hurdles for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

“We have to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and effectively. But we must also ensure federal mandates aren’t roadblocks to success in our nation’s classrooms. Anyone who has talked to a superintendent or teacher understands that federal law can stand in the way of innovative solutions and meaningful reform. Reducing the regulatory burden placed on our education system makes good fiscal sense and good policy sense,” said Chairman John Kline.

Offering examples of the redundant regulations overwhelming schools, Mr. Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), described a CCSSO-commissioned data collection analysis that found several instances in which states are required to report the same data to the federal government on multiple occasions.

“Each time a data element is collected or recollected there is a cost associated with valuable staff time at the school, district and state level that is expended to obtain, verify and then report these figures; cost and time that could be better spent focused on supporting efforts to improve low-performing schools or other important areas,” Mr. Wilhoit said. “As a result of the existing burdens, states have spent so much on their current data collections that they have no additional resources to support meaningful research or add additional elements on the link to improved student achievement.”

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edgar Hatrick echoed Mr. Wilhoit’s concerns, stating, “Specific regulations, data collection and reporting vary greatly and are dependent on program, grant and agency requests.  However, there is overlap, resulting in redundancy of reporting and resources being diverted from the mission of teaching and learning.”

Mr. Christopher Nelson, President of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, offered a higher education perspective on the regulatory burden.  “The regulation of colleges and universities is massive,” Mr. Nelson said. “Various efforts have been made in the past to quantify it, but no one has managed to come up with a definitive number.”

He continued, “When I step back from the mass of the more mundane record-keeping, reporting and compliance environment, I try to see what the effect of all this is on our principal task, fulfilling our education mission for the sake of our students.  Every diversion or distraction from these primary purposes weakens our best attempts to achieve those ends.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce plans to continue investigating federal rules and regulations that are undermining the strength of education in the nation.  “The House has charged this Committee to look at rules and regulations within our jurisdiction that may hinder job creation and economic growth,” said Chairman Kline. “Today’s hearing is part of that important effort, and we will leave no stone unturned as we look to strengthen education and the workforce.” 


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