US Rep. John Kline’s Statement On ESSA Hearings From Today

The Every Student Succeeds Act got it’s own hearing today in Washington D.C.  Congressman and Chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee John Kline oversaw the hearing.  Acting Secretary John King answered questions about the legislation signed by President Obama in December.  King will also face a US Senate confirmation hearing later this afternoon.  Odds are pretty good the Senate will confirm King as the official US Secretary of Education.  And many of us know why…

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Upholding the Letter and Intent of the Every Student Succeeds Act”

 
 

Replacing No Child Left Behind was a significant achievement that was desperately needed and long overdue. The law represented the largest expansion of federal control over K-12 schools, and it was based on the flawed premise that Washington knows best what students need in the classroom. The federal government imposed rigid rules and punitive actions on states and schools in areas vital to a child’s education, like which teachers to hire and fire, how to gauge school performance, and how to fix underperforming schools.It didn’t take long before state and local leaders were raising concerns that this top-down approach wouldn’t work. Their concerns were affirmed year after year as we experienced little – if any – improvement in graduation rates, proficiency in reading and math, and the achievement gap separating poor and minority students from their peers. Frustration among parents and teachers went up, while student achievement remained flat. Despite the good intentions behind the law, millions of children were left behind.

To make matters worse, the administration spent years pushing a convoluted waiver scheme, which doubled-down on the false hope that Washington could fix the problems in our schools. States and schools were subjected to even more federal requirements in areas like standards and teacher evaluations. They were forced to choose between onerous requirements prescribed in federal law and onerous requirements prescribed by the secretary of education.

If we learned anything throughout process to replace No Child Left Behind, it’s that the American people are tired of Washington micromanaging their classrooms. They are desperate for a different approach to K-12 education, one that will significantly reduce the federal role and restore state and local control. That is precisely the approach taken by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Under the new law, authority over accountability, teacher quality, and school improvement is restored to state and local leaders. The law also brings new transparency and accountability to the department’s rulemaking process, ends the era of federally-mandated high-stakes testing, repeals dozens of ineffective programs, and sets the department on the path to becoming smaller, not bigger. Furthermore, due to the administration’s actions in recent years and the public outcry that ensued, the Every Student Succeeds Act includes unprecedented restrictions on the authority of the secretary of education, ending the days when one individual imposed his or her own agenda on our classrooms.   

The Wall Street Journal described the new law as the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” A letter written by a coalition of organizations representing governors, state lawmakers, teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents says, “[The Every Student Succeeds Act] is clear: Education decision-making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.” They also urge the Department of Education to “honor congressional intent,” which brings us to the heart of today’s hearing.

Despite our success replacing No Child Left Behind, the real work to improve K-12 education is just beginning. The focus now shifts to leaders in state capitals and local communities who will use the tools and authority in the new law to build a better education for their children. And if they are going to succeed, they will need a Department of Education that behaves like a partner – not dictator.

I’ve described countless times the shortfalls of No Child Left Behind. While it may seem unnecessary at a hearing on the future of K-12 education, we need to remember where we have been as we look to where we want to go. Congress did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, and we certainly did not want a Department of Education that would continue to substitute its will for the will of Congress and the American people. Quite the opposite, we wanted new policies that would empower parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders. Congress promised to reduce the federal role and restore local control, and we intend to keep our promise.

That’s why we are here today. We want to learn what actions the department intends to take to implement the law and to help ensure the department acts in a manner that strictly adheres to the letter and intent of the law. Dr. King, this committee stands ready to assist you in that effort. The reforms you are now implementing were the result of bipartisan consensus, and we will remain actively engaged as the department moves forward. There is a lot of work to do, especially in every state and school district across the country. The department must get this right so every child can receive the excellent education they deserve. 

This is EXACTLY what Wall Street, hedge fund managers, members of the National Governor’s Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and many legislators want.  The devil, of course, is in the details…

You can watch the video of the hearing as well:

 

What Is The ESSA Implementation Network?

ESSAPic

The US House Committee on Education and The Workforce released a statement on the Every Student Succeeds Act implementation today.  It turns out a lot of the groups that were cheering Congress to pass the law now want a seat at the table for the transition.  Nobody really understands the full implications of the law.  It almost seems as if they threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, stirred it all up, and called it legislation.  Now all those who begged people to support it don’t really know what it all means.  Or they do and they are just making it look like they are responsible stakeholders who will guide the states to full transparency.   You know, the unions, the National PTA, the Governor groups, national state board, school board, superintendent, legislator, and principal associations.  Many of the same organizations who created the mess to begin with!  The ones who made ESSA necessary by collaborating with the education reformers on high-stakes testing and Common Core.  The ones who never fully supported parent opt-out even though one of them has the word “parent” in their title…

And the press release from the Education & Workforce Committee:

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Members learned what state and local leaders expect from the new law and discussed opportunities to ensure control over K-12 education is restored to states and school districts.

“The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act puts states and school districts back in charge of education, and includes more than 50 pages of provisions to keep the Department of Education in check,” Chairman Rokita said. “Moving forward, it’s our collective responsibility to hold the Department of Education accountable for how it implements the law. Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it’s our job to ensure that promise is kept.”

A key part of that effort is congressional oversight of the Department of Education as it implements the law. Kent Talbert, former general counsel for the department, described the responsibility of the administration in adhering to both the letter of the law and the congressional intent behind it. For example, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal government is “prohibited from mandating, directing, or controlling a state, school district, or school’s instructional content, curricula, programs of instruction, or standards or assessments. This prohibition includes any requirement to adopt the Common Core Standards.”

Citing this and other examples, Talbert said the unifying theme of ESSA’s provisions is limiting the federal role in education and returning decision-making authority back to the states and school districts. That’s why, when it comes to implementing the law, Superintendent of Hartselle City Schools in Hartselle, Alabama Vic Wilson, said, “less is more.” Speaking specifically about the role the Department of Education, Wilson added, “[The department] can empower school districts to think outside the box and implement procedures and policies that best meet the needs of schools and students they serve.”

Dr. Wilson continued, “ESSA makes it clear … Congress’ intent is that states should be solely responsible for decisions regarding accountability, standards, teachers, and other factors.” Oklahoma’s State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister agreed, adding her state-level perspective to the discussion. “States like Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister, “will only be able to achieve the full promise of the ESSA if the federal government holds true to the spirit of the law.”

“States are not only ready, but we are willing and able to lead,” Hofmeister continued, urging Congress and the department to “trust us as we work with parents, teachers and key stakeholders to transition to this new law.”

Those sentiments were echoed today by organizations representing parents, teachers, and state and local leaders. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Education John King, the organizations wrote, “We must work together to closely honor congressional intent. ESSA is clear: Education decision making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.”

“It is my firm belief,” Chairman Rokita concluded, “that when the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended, parents, teachers, and state and local leaders will be empowered to deliver the excellent education every child deserves.”

To learn more about this hearing, visit edworkforce.house.gov.

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