Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Roby Bill Affirms State Authority in Education

May 22, 2013
Press Release

In an effort to rein in the Obama Administration’s overreaching attempts to dictate state education policies and standards, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today introduced legislation prohibiting the federal government from making special funding grants and coveted regulation waivers contingent on whether a state is using certain curriculum or assessment policies.

States should indeed set standards – high standards - for education, Roby said. While collaboration between states can add value in setting curriculum and assessment policies, the unwelcome intrusion of the federal government into the process “invariably comes with a political agenda from Washington.”

“The Executive Branch has exceeded its appropriate reach where state education policy is concerned, and it’s time to rein it in,” Rep. Roby said. “The Defending State Authority Over Education Act will prevent undue influence by the federal government by taking away the Department of Education’s ability to attach curriculum and assessment policy strings to special grants and waivers.  Local and state leaders – those who have direct interaction with parents and teachers in their communities – are best positioned to determine policies that affect Alabama’s students. Washington bureaucrats are not.”

Rep. Roby explained the bill in-depth in an op-ed running today’s Montgomery Advertiser, which can be viewed online here.

Rep. Roby also outlines the bill in a video message, which can be viewed online here.

The Defending State Authority Over Education Act would prevent any officer of the federal government from using “grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements” to “mandate, direct, or control” a state’s educational standards or curriculum.  The bill would specifically prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from influencing, incentivizing, or coercing a state to participate in a particular multistate educational partnership. Further, it would prohibit making the approval of waivers or grants contingent on whether a state has adopted any specific “academic standard,” “assessment, “or “evaluation system.”

Rep. Roby is working with fellow House Education and the Workforce Committee Member Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) to promote the bill and highlight this issue as the Committee begins taking up reauthorization of the nation’s K-12 education law, known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), in the coming months. Rep. Rokita chairs the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

Reiterating her support for high education standards, Rep. Roby said state decisions about such policies are best made without undue pressure from Washington.

“Count me among those who believe Alabama should indeed set statewide standards—high standards that challenge students, build critical thinking skills, and enhance opportunities to succeed. As a mother of a child that attends public school, I’m glad our state has made an effort to raise its standards in recent years when we lagged behind for so long.

“However welcome the collaboration between states may be, the intrusion of the federal government – directly or indirectly – into the process is inappropriate. It invariably comes with a political agenda from Washington. And, unfortunately, the Obama Administration has improperly inserted itself into state education policy making.”