States Have and Will Continue to Retain Control of Their Education

Robert Holland of the Heartland Institute argues that if Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to improve her standing with grassroots groups across the country she should “live up to her post-nomination renunciation of Common Core” and flex her regulatory authority to “free states and localities from federal control” over standards and assessments.

First and foremost, Holland contends that “the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which became effective last year, kept the ultimate decision-making power with USED instead of returning it to the local level.” However, the exact opposite is true.

ESSA specifically prohibits the federal government from meddling in states’ standards and accountability systems, including limiting the authority the Secretary of Education can have to influence decisions about academic standards. Even if Secretary Devos were to try and take Holland’s advice to dismantle the use of high standards in the states, she would find it nearly impossible.

“The only way the Secretary of Education could ‘repeal’ comparable academic standards is by executive fiat – a maneuver that would violently contradict [President Trump’s] pledge to increase local control and directly infringe upon the rights of states that have chosen to use comparable standards,” Collaborative for Student Success Executive Director Jim Cowen explains.

States have always and will continue to have the responsibility to take control of their own education standards. Many are now beginning to see indications of student-performance improvements, providing further evidence that higher standards are working.

As for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos living up “to her post-nomination renunciation of Common Core” to appease grassroot supporters, we’re also skeptical of Mr. Holland’s understanding of the national landscape.  As we’ve demonstrated in the past, parents and teachers want high-quality assessments and understand the great value in their child’s education.

In response to questioning from Senator Patty Murray during the confirmation process, DeVos wrote: “I believe in high standards of excellence and achievement and it is the job of states to set those standards.” Secretary DeVos has also indicated in the past she will encourage states and districts to further raise the academic bar for all students.

We’re in full support of that objective and high, comparable standards and high-quality assessments are the best way to reach that goal.