The Every Student Succeeds Act: Giving Control Back to States, Ensuring Academic Standards Are Managed Locally

In an op-ed published in the Washington Times, Robert Holland, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, claims the Every Student Succeeds Act “actually seals in federal control, rather than empowering local stewards of education.” Holland asserts, “It is time to stop letting political hacks and blowhards in Washington control our kids’ futures and to restore authority and choice to parents, teachers and local communities.”

Mr. Holland’s argument ignores the very purpose of the Every Student Succeeds Act: to restore more control of education issues back in the hands of state and local leaders. Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, calls the law a “huge win for conservatives” for achieving that goal.

“[The Every Student Succeeds Act] fulfills all the principles we were trying to get on this side of the aisle,” Rep. Kline explains. “We have to empower parents with choice, we have to reduce the federal footprint in education.”

When asked whether the law addresses concerns about federal involvement in the Common Core, Rep. Kline adds: “That is exactly correct. The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt. If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

In the same vein, Karen Nussle explains in a recent memo that the ESSA “forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.”

Mr. Holland appears less concerned with the substance and impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act than the fact the law empowers states to continue to move forward with implementation of Common Core State Standards, free of the popular refrain of federal intrusion. As Karen Nussle notes, “States have weighed the evidence, seen past the rhetoric, and overwhelmingly embraced high, comparable education standards.”