What Candidates Should Be Discussing: How Every Student Succeeds Act gives control back to states


In an opinion piece published by the Seventy-Four, Conor Williams, a senior researcher at New America’s Education Policy Program, suggests that the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed to take debate about education issues “completely off the table” during the current election cycle.

Calling the ESSA a “deeply problematic law,” Williams suggest that ESSA’s passage was intended to ensure “opposition to the Common Core [didn’t] catalyze into a threat to establishment candidates” or create a “civil war” for Democratic candidates.

In fact, the Every Student Succeeds Act was designed and passed to rein in federal oversight of education issues and reinforce state and local control of education. Notably, the law ensures states have full discretion about which education standards to use—whether they choose the Common Core or something else.

Karen Nussle explains in a recent memo, the Every Student Succeeds Act “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.”

Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, called the law a “huge win for conservatives.” “[NCLB was] just a mess,” Rep. Kline explained. “We have to empower parents with choice, we have to reduce the huge federal footprint in education.”

When asked whether the law will put to rest claims of federal meddling in states’ academic standards, Rep. Kline added, “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.”

If the Every Student Succeeds Act was truly intended to stop candidates from talking education issues—like Common Core State Standards—as Williams suggests, it failed. Some candidates continue to deride the standards, calling for their repeal—even though the Every Student Succeeds Act has already achieved the freedom of choice those candidates call for.