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Moving in the Right Direction

Ready to Rein in the Education Secretary

For almost five years, the Obama administration has set federal education policy through a controversial and convoluted conditional waiver scheme – allowing the secretary of education to impose a backdoor education agenda on states and school districts that includes Common Core, teacher evaluations based on high–stakes testing, and prescriptive school improvement plans.

Fortunately, a House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on a proposal to replace No Child Left Behind that will rein in the secretary of education and put an end to this extraordinary federal overreach. Known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bicameral agreement:

  • Places new and unprecedented restrictions on the authority of the secretary of education, ending his or her ability to impose new requirements on states through executive fiat and ending the era of conditional waivers.
  • Prohibits any agent of the federal government — including the secretary of education — from incentivizing, forcing, or coercing states into adopting Common Core, or interfering with a state’s right to develop or change its own set of standards and assessments.
  • Outlines specific procedures the secretary of education must follow when issuing federal regulations and requires greater transparency and accountability over the development of new rules affecting K-12 schools.

As Frederick Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute, explained in The Hill,

The new bill contains unprecedented language restricting the secretary of education's discretion and eliminating his or her ability to use the law to shape state policy. It ends the invasive and problematic Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant programs. It contains strong language prohibiting federal officials from seeking to influence state academic standards (think of this as the "no more federal support for the Common Core" provision).

Until Congress replaces No Child Left Behind, this administration – and future administrations – will continue to dictate K-12 education policy, eroding the ability of parents, teachers, and state and local leaders to deliver students a quality education. The House-Senate conference committee agreement will end the administration’s harmful power grabs and prevent future administrations from intruding into the nation’s schools.

To read the final bill, click here.

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