House Moves Obama Education Rules Repeal To Senate
There are two sets of regulations in question: one dictates the way states and local school districts are held accountable for school quality and student learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The other monitors teacher preparation systems and was technically issued under the authority of the Higher Education Act—though the regulations also impact K-12 systems.
Emboldened House Republicans moved quickly this week to advance legislation under the Congressional Review Act that would force a repeal of Obama-era education department rules.
The Congressional Review Act permits Congress to act within 60 legislative days from when a rule issued by a federal agency takes effect.
As is often the case when power shifts in Washington, the window to review the outgoing administration’s lame duck, or “midnight” rules, has been extended, making the late autumn Obama administration rules fair game for repeal.
The upshot is that the Senate has until early May to send the proposed repeals to Trump’s desk, otherwise the regulations will remain in full effect.
On the House side, Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita, R- Ind., introduced the proposal to change the ESSA accountability implementation blueprint, while Subcommittee Chairman Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., introduced the resolution targeting the teacher preparation regulations.
The House adopted the resolutions on two largely party line votes on Tuesday.
“These resolutions will help protect local control and ensure every child has the best chance to receive a high-quality education,” said education committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., in a committee release.
The largely partisan nature of the House votes could make quick passage challenging in the more deliberative Senate. Democrats have raised concerns that if the rules were to be repealed under the CRA, the education department would be barred from issuing any “substantially similar” rules in the future.
In other words, depending on how broadly the statute is interpreted, Democrats argue that states could end up with minimal, if any, federal oversight of their accountability and teacher preparation systems.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., the vice-ranking member of the House education committee, said in a statement that Republicans were “creating uncertainty and risking the good work of states around the country to provide locally tailored, equitable education to all their students.”
Many state officials have already spent months on long listening tours to get stakeholder input for their plans—some of those efforts started before the education department regulations were even issued.
“Most states will stick with what they have” said Rentner. Though she also added that if the regulations are successfully repealed and the education department doesn’t jump in with new guidance quickly, state legislatures may move to fill the regulatory vacuum.
From a broader perspective, the partisan skirmishes over the Obama-era regulations reflect an unusually tense atmosphere in education policymaking circles.
The bitterness surrounding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary has yet to abate. News broke Friday that protesters attempted to physically block Sec. DeVos from entering a D.C. school she had arranged to visit.
The education department website currently has information posted about both the accountability rules and the teacher preparation regulations that House Republicans have formally objected to.