The top Democrats on education issues in Congress say that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ oversight of states’ new plans for education has “failed to adequately address several shortcomings” in plans that have been turned in so far, and urged the secretary to do better in the next round of plans.
In a Monday letter, Sen. Patty Murray of, Washington, and Rep. Bobby Scott, of Virginia, told DeVos that while the U.S. Department of Education correctly identified several areas where state plans fell short of meeting the Every Student Succeeds Act requirements, DeVos and other federal officials missed other violations in those plans, and thus allowed states to skirt the law in certain areas.
“We are concerned that inconsistent feedback and a lack of enforcement of the law’s equity-focused provisions will hinder states’ ability to identify and address persistent achievement gaps, harming our nation’s most vulnerable students,” Murray and Scott told DeVos. “As the department turns to the second plan submission window, we remind you that it is your statutory obligation to only approve plans that meet all the law’s requirements.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia turned in their ESSA plans in the spring, and most by now have been approved. The remaining 34 plans are due Monday, although some states will be filing later—Florida and Texas, for example, got an extension due to Hurricane Harvey.
Murray, Scott, and other congressional Democrats have been pushing DeVos hard to try to ensure states put a big focus on historically disadvantaged groups of students through their approach to things like accountability and testing. However, DeVos told us last week in an extensive interview that states shouldn’t be afraid to toe the line of what the law allows and take advantage of policy flexibility where ESSA allows it.
Last week, in a review of how states and DeVos handled ESSA plans in that first spring round, we noted that states in some instances didn’t change their proposed policies in response to concerns from DeVos’ department.
ESSA takes effect in the 2017-18 school year.
Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos fills her plate during a hog roast before a high school football game between Eastern Hancock and Knightstown, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in Charlottesville, Ind. —AP Photo/Darron Cummings