Senate Blocks Teacher Preparation Rules, Ending ESSA Accountability Rules on Deck
Two important education rules established during the Obama administration are currently in the process of being repealed. The first rule, concerning teacher preparation programs, has been blocked by a vote of 59 to 40 in the Senate, with eight Democrats joining the Republican majority. The second rule, which focuses on how states evaluate and improve schools through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is currently being debated and is likely to be blocked as well. The House of Representatives has already passed both bills, and President Trump is expected to sign them into law. Critics argue that eliminating these rules will lead to a loss of accountability for teacher training programs and K-12 schools in ensuring the success of their students. However, proponents argue that the rules are an example of federal overreach.
Education has always been a contentious issue, but there was a sense of compromise in Congress following the passage of ESSA in late 2015. However, this year has seen a breakdown of that compromise, with intense partisan division over the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the use of the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era education policies.
Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the author of ESSA, initially expressed willingness to find common ground on accountability regulations. However, he has now sponsored a resolution to overturn these rules. Alexander argues that the Obama regulations violate the law and encroach upon the power of Congress. Democrats and civil rights groups, on the other hand, believe that the rules are necessary to ensure equal education opportunities for historically underserved students.
Regarding the teacher preparation rules, there has never been consensus on federal oversight of these programs. The accountability measure proposed by the Obama administration evaluates teacher-training programs based on the outcomes of their graduates. Programs that fail to meet certain standards would become ineligible for federal grants. Some Democrats, including those up for re-election in conservative states in 2018, have voted to freeze these rules. Republicans argue that the rules represent an absurd attempt to control teacher training programs from Washington, D.C.
The individual expressed their belief that despite their familiarity with various programs, they do not possess the necessary expertise to make detailed judgments about them from a far distance. This statement was made on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Murray defended the regulation by highlighting its importance in providing aspiring teachers with essential information regarding the performance of teacher preparation programs.
Murray explained that if the rules were blocked, it would grant Secretary DeVos more power, and many individuals lack trust in her ability to utilize that power in the best interest of higher education students.
The Congressional Review Act prevents agencies from implementing similar rules until Congress passes a law permitting them to do so. Unlike the ESSA rules, which will face obstacles for the foreseeable future, there is an opportunity to rewrite the teacher prep rules in the near future through a revision of the Higher Education Act.
Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, urged senators not to overturn the rules. However, if they were to do so, she encouraged them to promptly reconsider a reauthorization of higher education.
She emphasized the need for a strong and bipartisan Higher Education Act reauthorization that incorporates the transparency requirements outlined in the teacher preparation regulations. This includes reporting important data at the program level and conducting surveys of new teachers and their principals at the state level. She stated that our nation’s students and schools deserve nothing less.
Sign up for Newsletter to receive stories like these directly to your inbox.