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Tenn. Lawmakers to Vote on Bill to Keep Washington Out of K-12 Policy

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 30, 2015 1 min read
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This post originally appeared in State EdWatch.

Tennessee lawmakers fretting about the federal government’s intrusion into education policy are keeping their enemies very close indeed.

As the Associated Press reported Jan. 29, legislators in the Volunteer State will soon consider a resolution that asks Congress to ensure that Washington doesn’t intrude into the state’s decisions about public schools. Specifically, as Lucas Johnson II reported in The Tennessean, it wants federal representatives to halt the Common Core State Standards. (As you may have read, that’s what at least a few Tennessee lawmakers want to do any way, and GOP Gov. Bill Haslam wants a comprehensive review of the standards even though he’s been a common-core supporter. So it’s not clear what exactly Washington, which doesn’t approve state content standards, can do to stop the standards.)

More broadly, Johnson reports that part of the resolution asks federal lawmakers to “end the decades of federal intrusion in state and local education policy decisions, and eliminate burdensome federal education mandates on states and local school systems.”

The text of the resolution says that the spectre of the U.S. Department of Education behaving like a “national school board,” a favorite phrase of Tennessee’s own Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, has in fact come to pass, and also says: “States and local school systems should be free from federal mandates, rules, and requirements concerning academic standards and tests, performance targets for student achievement expectations, accountability systems to determine which schools are succeeding or failing, teacher and principal evaluations to measure the effectiveness of school personnel, and other educational matters.”

A sponsor of the resolution, GOP state Sen. Bill Ketron, told Johnson plainly that, “It urges them [members of Congress] to pass a bill that gives that authority back to the states.”

Despite the superficial contradiction of asking their ostensible enemies to stop themselves, Johnson does note that the Republican takeover of Congress after last November’s elections might have spurred their Tennessee compatriots, who control the state legislature, to seek at least rhetorical relief when it comes to education policy and politics (remember, the language I quoted above is in a resolution, not a bill, so it doesn’t have any force of law).

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