Federal File

Regulations Face a Sunset Provision

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The clock is ticking on the Bush administration’s effort to revise rules for the No Child Left Behind Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

When Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled a comprehensive package of proposed NCLB rules in April, she said they would be finalized by fall.

Now, White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolton has given the Department of Education and other federal agencies a Nov. 1 deadline to finish all rulemaking. In a May 9 memo, Mr. Bolton said he set the deadline to “resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months.”

Such 11th-hour actions can be easily reversed by a new president.

A Nov. 1 deadline does not appear difficult for the Education Department to meet. The department proposed the FERPA rules on March 24 and is reviewing comments submitted on them. The FERPA rules would increase researchers’ access to student data, while continuing to protect private information. They would be the most comprehensive revision in several decades to the law governing access to student records.

The department published the proposed rules for the NCLB law on April 23 and said it would accept comments on them for 60 days.

The proposal would set a uniform formula for calculating states’ graduation rates, clarify testing rules, and require districts to expand students’ access to tutoring.

But in the world of federal rulemaking, finalizing the FERPA and NCLB rules by Nov. 1 would be an extremely quick turnaround.

For example, in April 2007­, the department finalized rules allowing up to 2 percent of students to be assessed under tests modified for special education students. That was 16 months after the department proposed them.

The Nov. 1 deadline is important because federal rules go into effect 60 days after the final version appears in the Federal Register.

By publishing new rules on that date, they would be in place before the next president takes office on Jan. 20.

Vol. 27, Issue 41, Page 17

Published in Print: June 11, 2008, as Regulations Face a Sunset Provision
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