The Feds About Face on Education Policy

January 13, 2016

In a surprise move the feds do an about face on education policy. Shifting their stance is a welcomed relief to many after our schools have weathered often unpopular federal initiatives such as No Child Left Behind followed by Race to the Top and more recent controversies regarding National Governors Association Common Core Curriculum and Smarter Balanced testing. The Federal Government is now taking a backseat and acquiescing to local control in the education of our children through new laws outlined in P.L. 114-95 known as Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. This law consolidates 50 programs including elementary and secondary counseling into one big block grant.

The state rather than the federal government will now decide:

  • What it means for a school or district to be successful.
  • When and how to intervene in schools or districts that persistently fail to meet state expectations.
  • Developing school and school district accountability plans and systems.
  • Deciding how student test scores are used.
  • Crafting teacher evaluation systems.

The law also limits federal government intervention a number ways:

  • Government cannot mandate any curriculum or program that the new ESSA does not fund.
  • No funds from the act can be used to endorse, develop, or require any particular curriculum including the Common Core.
  • No state will be required to have academic standards approved by the federal government in order to receive grants under ESSA

Most significantly, this legislation continues to help fund our educational system with less strings attached than in previous years. As a strong advocate for local control, this move provides us with an important mandate to continue to improve our schools, especially in the parts of our state where the educational systems may be failing our students.

Now that we are once again being given a greater role in making important education decisions in our state, we need to recommit ourselves to bringing our educational system back to the top and continue to grow Connecticut’s reputation as the nation’s leading education state.

I am looking forward to working with my fellow legislators in the upcoming legislative session to do just that: improving our state’s public, charter, technical, and magnet schools; building on early childhood and second generation initiatives; and a better environment for our teachers to teach in and children to learn in.

Sen. Toni Boucher is the Ranking Member of the Education Committee, former Member of Connecticut’s State Board of Education and a Wilton Board of Education Chairman. You can contact her office 800-842-1421 or email her [email protected]