Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

It’s Official – No More Common Core Coercion

May 26, 2017
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

It’s official – there will be no more attempts by the U.S. Department of Education to coerce states into adopting its preferred policies, standards, and curriculum, including Common Core. Our nation’s new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos confirmed this to me in no uncertain terms during a congressional hearing last week.  
 
That’s the way it should be because that’s the law. Back in 2013 I sponsored the Defending State Authority Over Education Act, which sought to put an end to the practice of U.S. Department of Education officials using funding grants and special policy waivers to coerce states into adopting their pet policies. Over the next few years I worked to get the bill language included in the larger overhaul of the flawed No Child Left Behind law, and I finally succeeded in late 2015 when Congress passed the the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with my provisions prohibiting federal coercion.
 
My questions to Secretary DeVos were whether she acknowledges that the law now expressly forbids the practice of manipulating states to adopt certain education policies and whether she would ensure the Department would uphold it. I explained to her that under the previous administration it was commonplace for federal bureaucrats to simply ignore the law and act on their own.
 
Secretary DeVos was crystal clear. She said she absolutely acknowledges this provision of the law and that under her leadership, the Department of Education will follow the letter and spirit of the law. “You have my commitment that the Department is going to implement and follow the law that you have set out through ESSA,” she said.
 
I appreciate Secretary DeVos’ clarity and forthrightness on this issue, particularly in contrast to the way her predecessor former Secretary John King handled the same questions from me a year ago. She went on to further explain her position on standards.
 
"I would love to see a competition between all the states to outdo one another on how high they set their standards and how high they shoot. We should be shooting for excellence across the board, but in no way should it be a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution from the federal government,” she said.
 
I couldn’t agree more. I believe that Alabama and all states should set high standards that challenge students and help create better opportunities.  However, the intrusion of the federal government in this process – whether directly or indirectly – is inappropriate. It invariably comes with a political agenda from Washington, which has bred a lot of confusion and mistrust over the years. In many states, this has led to a volatile policy environment, and that’s the last thing we need when trying to decide how to best educate our children.
 
I have championed these anti-coercion measures for several years, and I greatly appreciate now having a partner leading the U.S. Department of Education who agrees with me. It’s not just about Common Core – it’s also about the next pet policy that comes out of Washington. That could be five or ten years from now, but thankfully we now have a law that takes away Washington bureaucrats’ ability to force their policy agenda into Alabama classrooms.

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