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Every Student Succeeds Act

GOP Lawmakers Put ESSA Accountability, Teacher-Prep Regulations on Hit List

By Alyson Klein — December 13, 2016 2 min read
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The Obama administration’s teacher preparation regulations under the Higher Education Act and its accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act appear headed for the trash heap, if the Senate Republican Policy Committee gets its way.

Both sets of regulations are being targeted by the policy committee for the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to vote to strike down rules lawmakers don’t like, essentially putting the kibosh on them. If a set of regulations is subject to the CRA, the administration can’t issue similar regulations until there’s new authorizing legislation. Congress has until May to use this option to get rid of recently enacted Obama administration regulations, according to the committee’s website.

The incoming Trump administration can also take immediate steps to pause the implementation of some recently finalized regulations, by essentially delaying their effective date.

It’s unclear if school districts and states actually want Congress to toss the accountability regulations. State and district advocates raised some serious questions about the administration’s draft regulations, which solicited more than 20,000 comments.

But the final version, released late last month, got largely positive reviews from groups including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Both said the department assuaged their concerns by granting more them more time and flexibility to implement ESSA.

If the regulations are scrapped, it could make it tougher for states to finish their ESSA plans, which they can begin filing this spring. To keep the momentum going, the Trump administration would have to outline its own vision on accountability.

The teacher-preparation regulations call for states to collect new data on starting teachers they have trained, with the aim of tracking whether they work in high-needs schools, stay in the profession, and are able to improve student learning. The regulations, which were finalized in October, have come under fire from teachers’ unions, and some state officials say the new requirements could be a capacity challenge.

Interestingly, an arguably more-controversial set of regulations for a spending provision of ESSA known as supplement-not-supplant is not on the Republicans’ target list. That could be because those regulations haven’t been finalized yet. But there’s another set of draft regulations, pertaining to Planned Parenthood, that is on the policy committee’s hit list. Of course, it’s hard to imagine Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education panel, would be on board with any final rule that looks similar to what the education department proposed earlier this year. So that regulation could easily end up on this list, once it’s finalized.