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U.S. Senators Tell Obama ESSA Regulations Are Overreach, Report Says

By Alyson Klein — November 03, 2016 1 min read
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A bipartisan group of senators wrote to President Barack Obama back in September criticizing proposed U.S. Department of Education regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Washington Post reports.

According to a letter published by the Post, the 10 senators are concerned about the department’s proposed regulations for accountability and for supplement-not-supplant, a spending provision in the law, which was passed by overwhelming margins late last year.

The senators say that neither draft regulation complies with the “plain language” of the law. And they ask for Obama’s help in reining the department in.

“Most Americans are grateful for the law, that Congress, working with you, enacted,” they wrote. “We urge you to make certain that the Department of Education regulations stay within the statutory text.”

For its part, the department has said that its proposed regulations are well within ESSA’s parameters and would help strengthen so-called “guardrails” in the law to protect historically overlooked groups of students.

The letter, dated Sept. 30, was signed by a cadre of Republican senators, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, an ESSA architect, as well as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

It was also signed by Democrats, most of whom represent Republican-leaning states, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Angus King of Maine, an Independent who organizes with the Democrats.

Noteably, that list doesn’t include Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee. Murray, also an ESSA architect, has generally backed the department up on its regulatory approach.

And it’s clear that Murray disagrees with the premise of the letter. “These proposed regulations are within the spirit of ESSA and the congressional intent that we agreed to around that balanced approach,” she said in a statement. “I am encouraged to see the Department continuing to gather feedback from stakeholders, including teachers, principals, superintendents, and civil rights groups as it works to implement the law.”

Department officials were unable to comment on the substance of the proposed regulations because they are still gathering and considering feedback.