Legislative Update: DeVos Confirmed as ED Secretary/House Kills ESSA Accountability Regulations

After a long and contentious confirmation battle the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on February 7 after a highly partisan 51 to 50 vote. Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to confirm DeVos after two Republican Senators—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—joined Democrats and voted nay during the full Senate vote, days after both voted yes to the nomination in the HELP committee (which moved the confirmation to the full Senate.)

Prior to the vote, Senate Democrats staged a 24 hour “talkathon” on the Senate floor to oppose the DeVos nomination and to encourage a Republican to vote nay on the confirmation. This came after a huge public backlash in opposition to the DeVos nomination.

DeVos became the nation’s 11th Education secretary.

Reactions to the confirmation came quickly after the vote. Senate HELP Committee ranking member Patty Murray said DeVos would be “one of the most controversial and embattled Education secretaries in the history of the department.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement that “DeVos’ confirmation battle has a major silver lining: The public in public education has never been more visible or more vocal, and it is not going back in the shadows.”  

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García noted “Americans across the nation drove a bipartisan repudiation of the Trump-DeVos agenda for students and public education. Today’s outcome marks only the beginning of the resistance. Students, educators, parents, civil rights and special education advocates—along with millions of Americans—are speaking loud and clear: we are here to stay…we will protect public education.”

Ed Patru, a spokesman for DeVos, told POLITICO, DeVos overcame “an unprecedented personal assault” from teachers unions, noting “Betsy DeVos’ confirmation marks a critically important shift in federal education policy: from now on, the needs of kids will supersede the political interests of adults, and education policies will be decided by states and local school boards, not Washington.”

Read more here.

House Overturns Rules on ESSA Accountability and Teacher Prep

As expected this week the House overturned the Obama Administration’s accountability rule under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the regulation governing teacher preparation programs.

The House and Senate have until early May to use the Congressional Review Act on regulations issued in the last half year of the Obama administration. 

The ESSA Accountability regulation was issued to help states design and implement new accountability provisions required in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Many Republicans believe the rule was too prescriptive and gave the Secretary of Education too much authority in state decision making. Democrats issued a statement saying that eliminating the rule would create uncertainty as states developed their ESSA plans. More here.

Most in the education community are opposed to the teacher preparation rules and believe changes made by the federal government should be part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) Action Alert system is working to rescind the teacher prep regulations in the Senate. Go here.

And finally . . .

The House education committee held its first hearing this week about higher education in the 115th Congress in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing focused on ways to strengthen the nation’s system of higher education “for students, parents, institutions and taxpayers.”

On the day that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as ED Secretary, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie introduced H.R. 899, a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education. The one sentence long bill states, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.


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3 Comments

  1. Denise Ryburn
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    This seems like a very balanced article. Thanks for a NEWS piece and not an opinion or inflammatory article. I also believe that state and local control of education is the absolute best. Thanks!

  2. Brenda Esselman
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It is a very dangerous proposition when one thinks only the government can educate. I am grateful Obama’s ESSA was overturned.

  3. Jason J.
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    While I am skeptical of government regulating education I’m also concerned for a country that makes all education decisions on the local level. Let’s be honest. The reason why Rep Massie introduced a bill to kill the DoEd is because he is appealing to a base that wants faith based education (a clear violation of the sep. of church and state). I worry about the erosion of that separation under a purely local control. Some might argue that litigation would solve the problem, but litigation is reactive rather than proactive and requires resources that many don’t have.
    Perhaps I’d feel differently if I were a public school educator, but as I’m in a private school not beholden to any of this, it doesn’t really affect me. I’m also fortunate that I don’t have a local government telling me what is important to teach.

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