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Every Student Succeeds Act

Predictions on How the Trump Administration Could Handle ESSA Rules

By Alyson Klein — November 14, 2016 2 min read
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The incoming Trump administration will likely embrace the local control sprit of the Every Student Succeeds Act—and might move to make big changes to pending regulations, predicted current and former GOP Hill staffers at a panel Monday.

Trump and Company will likely “return to a more balanced federal-state partnership,” Vic Klatt, a principal at Penn Hill Group, told those at an Education Writer’s Association session. “And I think the education world is going to ultimately go, ‘Phew’. No more wacky changes from the federal level.”

The Trump administration doesn’t need to come up with a whole new framework on K-12, now that ESSA is on the books.

“On the whole K-12 issue, they don’t need to do a lot besides implement the law the way that it was written, which intentionally shrank the federal government after 15 years of No Child Left Behind and restored responsibility to state and local school systems,” said David Cleary, a top aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee. “I think it would be very smart for them to implement the law the way it was written, and not go forward with those regulations the way they were proposed.”

In fact, lawmakers could use their power under the Congressional Review Act to rescind some of the Obama administration’s K-12 regulations before they take effect, Cleary said. That means Congress would take an up-or-down vote on the regulation. Lawmakers couldn’t amend or change the regulations.

And if the vote is successful, it could have implications down the road. The executive branch couldn’t try regulating in a particular area again until new legislation is passed. The Obama administration has plenty of education regulations that would be ripe for rescinding, in Cleary’s view.

Near the top of that list: the still-yet-to-be-finalized regulations for supplement-not-supplant, a wonky spending provision. Other regulations that matter to K-12 education could be tweaked or reviewed, including on teacher preparation and ESSA accountability.

If the Obama administration is worried that Congress might really follow through and use the Congressional Review Act to prevent a future secretary of education from regulating on supplement-not-supplant, it could decide not to finalize its current proposal, which is still in draft form. That means the regulation probably wouldn’t go through, but another, future administration could still regulate on supplement-not-supplant.

The administration’s proposed regulations have drawn ire from groups representing state and local superintendents, school board members, teachers, and from congressional Republicans, including Alexander. Civil rights groups, and ESSA’s Democratic sponsors, on the other hand, are big fans.

Before the election, when most polls were predicting Democrats would hold the White House, the Obama administration had planned to finalize all its draft ESSA regulations before leaving office.