Equity & Diversity

Activists to DeVos: Hold Firm and Reject Florida’s ESSA Plan

By Corey Mitchell — August 14, 2018 2 min read
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Florida is the only state that hasn’t had its Every Student Succeeds Act plan approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. As the fate of the state’s plan remains in limbo, two civil rights organizations have some new advice for the state’s education department: take the proposal back to the drawing board.

UnidosUS and the Florida chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens want state Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart to take more time, and gather more public feedback, on the state plan. They’re also calling on DeVos to hold firm and reject any revised proposal that doesn’t comply with the letter of the law.

In a pair of Aug. 10 letters, the organizations argue that the current ESSA plan excludes “critical protections” for English-language learners, students with disabilities, nonwhite students, and students from low-income families. It’s an argument the groups and a host of like-minded organizations have made over the past year as they’ve called for an overhaul of the state’s proposal.

The letters to DeVos and Stewart also argue that the Florida Department of Education has all but ignored public input and intentionally “defied compliance with ESSA at every step of the plan-writing process.”

Thus far, the state’s approach has clashed with requirements under the federal K-12 law. For example, the state has declined to hold schools accountable for how well students perform on English-language-proficiency exams or provide some students subject exams in students’ native language, as the law requires.

As my colleague Daarel Burnette explained earlier this summer, DeVos warned Florida that it could face sanctions—including the potential loss of federal funding—if its ESSA plan doesn’t meet federal guidelines. The state education department receives more than $1.1 billion per year from the federal government

DeVos gave the state until June 15 to respond. It’s not clear how the state countered.

“Please ... reject any revised plan that fails to fully comply with ESSA,” the groups wrote to DeVos in the Aug. 10 letter. “Parents and communities deserve to know that their schools will be held accountable for ensuring the educational success of their children so that all students will be college- and career-ready.”

Officials with the U.S. and Florida departments of education did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Here’s a look at the letters to DeVos and Stewart.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.