Lamar Alexander Whines About What We Knew Would Happen With ESSA

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Photo credit: AMSF2011
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Photo credit: AMSF2011 (CC-By-2.0)

Senate Education Chair Lamar Alexander is shocked that the U.S. Department of Education is doing what he says he believed the Every Student Succeeds Act prevents the Department from doing – regulating things that Congress said shouldn’t be regulated.

Politico‘s Morning Education reported yesterday:

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander is not pleased with the Education Department’s early work on implementing the new Every Student Succeeds Act — specifically a draft regulation [] on Title I funding — and he let Education Secretary John B. King Jr. know loud and clear Tuesday. Alexander said he thinks the department is effectively regulating things that Congress prohibited the department from doing. And he was clear he plans to do everything he can to stop King from overstepping his bounds as the regulating process moves forward.

Alexander later indicated he hopes using his bully pulpit will be enough. “I’m hopeful that the secretary will go back and talk with his lawyers and say, ‘This senator and his staff are smarter than you think they are’,” Alexander said. But he sees three levers to use if King doesn’t change course: One way is using the Congressional Review Act, an obscure, rarely used law that allows Congress to overturn a final rule issued by an administration. Second, he could use the appropriations process to defund implementation efforts. And third, states could spur action: “If for example, a state submits a plan that the department refuses to approve, the state can ask for a hearing or it can sue in court and say the law says something different,” Alexander said.

King told lawmakers he’s trying to set guardrails for states as the law intended, not add new requirements. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray didn’t side with Alexander; she reminded the committee that “while we were writing this law, we were deliberate on granting the department the authority to regulate on the law and hold schools and states accountable for education.”

Here’s video of Alexander’s remarks on the subject:

Bureaucrats gotta bureaucrat…. Seriously, this is why we were concerned about state’s having to submit their state assessment plans for the Secretary of Education to approve. Specifically it erodes state power over education though the law’s language specifying computer-adaptive assessments. Whose to say that the Department won’t tell a state that it can’t use say ACT for 11th graders, but has to use a computer-adaptive test?

Also, with standards the law now says that a state’s standards must align with higher-education requirements and with “challenging standards a.k.a. “career and technical education standards.”

No Child Left Behind never dictated that. What kind of “guardrails” will Secretary King establish for that?

If Alexander truly wanted to rid our nation of a “national school board” instead of pushing for this monstrosity of a bill they should have let the No Child Left Behind sunset instead of trying to fix it. The only way to reduce federal control is to specifically take power away from the federal government to regulate. They didn’t do that with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Alexander was warned, and now he’s whining because the Department is doing exactly what we suspected they would do.

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