Weekly Columns

Preserving Local Control in Education

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Washington, February 9, 2017 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-6340) | comments

Since coming to Congress, I’ve proudly served on the House Education and Workforce Committee. This experience has strengthened my belief that a quality education is critical to the future of our children and grandchildren, and serving on this committee gives me the opportunity to address issues facing our nation’s students, teachers and school administrators. I believe the vast majority of our educators do a wonderful job teaching their students, but for far too long government has inserted itself into classrooms. While accountability is an important tool to ensure all students receive a quality education, I’ve heard firsthand from many teachers that burdensome regulations have made it more difficult for them to do what they do best: teach. That’s why this week the House used the authority given to Congress through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass measures to stop two of the Department of Education’s most misguided regulations.

The first CRA would stop a teacher preparation regulation that many educators have expressed concerns about. The Higher Education Act provides funding to assist with teacher preparation programs and requires teacher prep programs provide very specific information to states like pass rates on state licensure exams, admission criteria, hours of clinical experience and the number of full-time equivalent faculty. Each state reports this information to the Department of Education to be used in their national report card. The Obama administration put forward the teacher preparation regulation because it was believed that existing reporting framework did not adequately identify program quality. The rule was finalized last October and is scheduled to begin taking effect on July 1st of this year. The new regulation required states to track new teachers on their students’ learning outcomes, employment outcomes and employer surveys, giving little flexibility to states by federally-mandating what criteria are used.

Worse, this misguided rule puts important grant funding at risk. The Department of Education also moved to limit the use of TEACH grants to students who attend an “effective” teacher preparation program as defined in the regulation. TEACH grants provide financial assistance to high-achieving students who commit to teaching math, science, foreign language or reading at a school that has at least 30 percent of its students in poverty. Limiting use of these funds could have a negative effect on the students who need help most.

Next, the House passed a CRA to stop another misguided rule that could effectively prevent states from developing their own accountability measures. The rule was finalized last November and scheduled to take effect on January 30th. The Trump administration’s memo to federal agencies delayed the date of this and other regulations’ effective dates to March 31st, meaning Congress must act now to prevent this rule from ever fully taking effect. In December 2015, I proudly supported the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In fact, I even served as a conferee on this important legislation and fought against Common Core and for states and local leaders to have more control over decision-making in education, including evaluations of teachers and student success. This rule would completely undo much of the gains made toward local control in the Every Student Succeeds Act, returning that control to the federal government. Students, teachers and school administrators deserve certainty, and they should have the opportunity to develop their own accountability measures as promised through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Just as a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work for health care reform, educators need the flexibility to do what’s best for their students. Most teachers I know have no problem being held accountable, but the system for documenting student and teacher success must be fair and transparent. These misguided Department of Education rules would put students at risk and make the jobs of teachers and school administrators even more difficult. Whether or not a child receives a quality education can drastically alter the course of their lives, and I look forward to working with the Trump administration to ensure our students receive the best education in the world, no matter where they come from or their socioeconomic status.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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