Education

Nobody Wants Obama Involved In The New Education Law

A coalition of educational and lobbying organizations, including two major teachers unions, have sent a letter to the Obama administration begging it not to use the country’s new education law as an excuse to craft new regulations.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed by Congress in December 2015 and quickly signed into law by President Barack Obama. ESSA replaced the 2002 No Child Left Behind law and generally decentralizes educational power away from Washington. Among other things, the bill prohibits the federal government from mandating the adoption of Common Core, gives states more leeway in deciding how to evaluate teachers, and allows states to set their own academic achievement goals.

By shifting educational influence away from Washington, the bill appears to weaken the Department of Education. And now, a coalition of groups, several of them close allies of the Democratic Party, have sent a letter to Secretary of Education John King warning him not to get in the way.

“On behalf of states, districts, educators and parents with a strong commitment to work together on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we encourage the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine,” says the letter, sent Monday to King. Simply defining terms may seem like a minor matter, but it can actually give the federal government a tremendous degree of power, by allowing it to reinterpret ESSA’s provisions in a way that may impose new, unexpected burdens on states.

Among the letter’s signatories are the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers unions. Other signatories include the National Governors Association, which represents state governors as a group, as well as the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Collectively, the nine signatory groups represent just about every dimension of K-12 education policy. (RELATED: Democrats Are Turning Against Teachers Unions)

And despite their varied concerns and interests, all of them want the Obama administration to back off of education policy.

“Our members, as state and local implementers of ESSA, will continue to use ESSA as an opportunity to lift up those students who need help the most. We hope ED will allow this to happen by exercising regulatory restraint. We look forward to our continued relationship to help support effective implementation at the state and local levels.”

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