House Blocks Obama-Era ESSA Accountability, Teacher Prep Rules Over Democrats’ Objections
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would block the Obama administration’s regulations on school accountability. Democrats believe that this move could disrupt the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
This action is just one part of Congress turning away from the previous administration’s education policies. This started with the Senate’s vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the education secretary. DeVos faced opposition from Democrats and even some Republicans, leading to a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Some ultra-conservative House GOP members took this opportunity to introduce a bill that aims to abolish the Education Department.
The votes to block the Obama administration’s regulations on accountability and evaluating teacher preparation programs are the first step in the Congressional Review Act. This law allows Congress to overturn executive branch regulations and prevents the department from issuing similar regulations without congressional approval.
The House blocked the regulations on teacher preparation with a vote of 240-181 and the accountability regulations with a vote of 234-190. While most Democrats voted to overturn the teacher prep rule, five Democrats voted against it, and one Republican voted against overturning the accountability regulation.
The Obama administration released these accountability rules in November, outlining how states and districts should measure school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These rules are particularly important for tracking the progress of disadvantaged students and intervening in low-performing schools.
Democrats expressed concerns about the possible disruption that could occur if school accountability rules were banned while states were in the process of designing their new plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. They suggested revising the rules rather than completely revoking them.
Republican supporters argued that using the Congressional Review Act was necessary to reign in an Obama administration that exceeded its authority. They assured that states could continue their implementation work without major disruptions.
While civil rights and disability advocates opposed the overturning of the rules, fearing it would widen the achievement gap, the National Governors Association and superintendents groups saw the regulations as an inappropriate intrusion into local decisions.
Republicans contended that their intent was to provide clarity and consistency for states, allowing them to develop plans that comply with the law. They believed that the teacher preparation regulations went against the wishes of Congress when it wrote the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Overall, this legislative action marks a significant shift in education policy and highlights the ongoing debates between Democrats and Republicans on how to best improve the American education system.
The Democrats acknowledged that while there may be a necessity for some adjustments to the teacher preparation regulations, completely getting rid of the rules is not the appropriate approach.
Representative Susan Davis of California stated that using the Congressional Review Act as the method of repeal is like using a sword to eliminate the regulations when a more precise and targeted approach should be taken.
The resolutions that seek to block the accountability and teacher prep rules, along with several other Obama-era regulations that are unrelated to education, will now proceed to the Senate. The Congressional Review Act establishes an expedited schedule in the typically sluggish Senate and only requires a simple majority for passage.