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Rokita Statement: Consideration of H. J. Res. 57

I rise today in strong support of H. J. Res. 57, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Under No Child Left Behind, states and school districts were forced into a rigid one-size-fits-all accountability system that heavily dictated how they would gauge and address school performance. The system represented a top-down approach to K-12 education, and it didn’t work.

That’s why, a little more than a year ago, Congress passed — and former President Obama signed into law — the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. With this law, Republicans and Democrats worked together to reform our education system and ensure all children are able to receive the education they deserve. It represents a fundamentally different approach to education and — in the words of one superintendent — empowers local leaders “to dream and lead and transform public education in this country.”

Unfortunately, after the bill became law, the Obama administration began its attempt to roll back these bipartisan reforms.

With the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress promised to reduce the federal role and restore state and local control over K-12 education. The law empowers states to develop their own policies to hold schools accountable to parents and taxpayers. For accountability to work, it must be driven by the state and local leaders who are best equipped to directly address the issues in their schools.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s flawed accountability regulation would reestablish the Washington-knows-best approach to accountability — an approach that is deeply flawed. Not only does the regulation dictate prescriptive accountability requirements, it violates many of the prohibitions the law places on the Secretary of Education. As we all saw, that top-down approach simply doesn’t work.

That’s why we repealed No Child Left Behind and passed a bill to transform K-12 education. Our students deserve better than the failed policies of the past, and that’s what the Every Student Succeeds Act — if implemented as Congress intended — offers.

States are already working to implement the law in their school districts, and I want to be very clear that this resolution in no way does anything to stymie those efforts. Instead, this resolution gives states the certainty they need to continue moving forward, confident their plans will be reviewed by the Department of Education against the requirements of the statute with deference to their judgement, as the law requires. We are also committed to working with the new administration to ensure states receive the support they need, consistent with the limits placed by the statute.

By passing this resolution and blocking implementation of the Obama administration’s flawed accountability rule, we can ensure that the promises we made under the Every Student Succeeds Act — to restore state and local control of K-12 education — are kept.

I urge my colleagues to support H. J. Res 57 and protect those important bipartisan reforms. I reserve the balance of my time.