State education agencies across the nation have been preparing their waiver plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December 2015. A draft ESSA plan has been submitted to the governor for review, and Superintendent John White is pressing forward with intent to submit the plan to U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) in April. USDOE had originally issued a timeline of implementation with April as the deadline submission. That date was later extended to September. There has been much resistance to an April submission from the Accountability Commission, Superintendent’s Advisory, Louisiana Principal’s Association, Louisiana School Board Association, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Governor’s Office, and the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Council. The main complaint is that White didn’t solicit genuine input to the plan. His statewide tour was more of an effort to entertain questions. This is evidenced by all of the above organizations opposing the amount of testing, the school rating system and the weight of growth vs achievement. In addition, the Accountability Commission can’t agree of these things, within itself.
During the last year, and particularly the last few months, of the Obama administration, Secretary of Education, John King, feverishly issued regulations regarding ESSA. These regulations are what has guided the creation of Louisiana’s ESSA plan. In the very beginning of the planning stages, White stated that we had a good accountability plan, and it just needed tweaking to fit the new law. The regulations issued seemed to verified this statement.
On March 9th, the U. S. Senate passed a resolution that repeals every single regulation issued by John King, regarding ESSA. The author of the resolution, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Chairman of the HELP Committee), issued the following statement:
“The issue before us was whether the United States Congress writes the laws or whether the Department of Education writes the laws. Under Article I of our Constitution, the United States Congress writes the law, and in at least seven cases this Education Department regulation directly violated the Every Student Succeeds Act law passed just 15 months ago. And in at least 16 other cases, the regulation did something that the Congress did not authorize it to do.”-Senator Lamar Alexander (TN)
What does this mean? Well, it means that Supt. White is fast-tracking an ESSA plan that has virtually no change from the previous plan, under NCLB, based on regulations that no longer exist. Furthermore, although periodic amendments are allowed, the plans submitted by states stay in effect as long as the state is participating in Title 1.
This is the time for action. It is imperative that Governor John Bel Edwards use whatever authority, or power, within his reach to stop this plan from being submitted, as is. If the plan still gets submitted without the governor’s approval, then the governor, and all of the organizations mentioned above, need to communicate to the Secretary of Education why this plan should not be approved. I do believe that White will find himself obligated to step back. Personally, I believe we deserve the right to start a plan from scratch as Congress intended.