By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, February 25, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) questioned acting US Secretary of Education John King about efforts the Department of Education is taking to ensure individual states get to set their own accountability standards for schools.
Congressman Byrne asked Secretary King how he was going to ensure that state and local education officials will be able to set their own accountability standards, which is required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Byrne was not satisfied with King’s answer.
Rep. Byrne said, “I was disappointed that Mr. King would not directly answer my simple question of whether or not states have the sole responsibility of setting accountability standards for their own schools. The law clearly gives the authority to the states, and I don’t know why Mr. King wouldn’t admit that. It is alarmingly clear the Obama Administration will continue to look for ways to skirt the intent of the law. That’s why it is so important Congress continues to provide diligent oversight as the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented.”
Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was supposed to roll back federal involvement in K-12 education. Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested that the Department of Education has good attorney which will find ways around ESSA’s wording which appears to return control of setting education standards to the states.
Congressman Byrne is a former member of the Alabama State Board of Education and a former head of Alabama’s two year college system. Byrne supported the Every Student Succeeds Act because it returned power over education from the federal government back to the state and local level.
Republicans have accused the Barack Obama Administration of attempting to force states into one top down set of education standards set by Washington instead of allowing the states to direct their own affairs. ESSA replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind program passed during the George W. Bush (R) administration. GOP supporters argue that the Every Student Succeeds Act gives the states the control which NCLB took away.
Conservative critics argue that ESSA did not go far enough and that the Department of Education Administration will continue to push the states into keeping the increasingly unpopular Common Core Standards. Despite growing opposition and few signs of any significant improvement in student outcomes, the Alabama Department of Education has resisted calls to repeal and replace the controversial Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, which align with the Common Core. Supporters continue to insist the standards will eventually work. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has vowed to end the Common Core if elected President.
Congressman Byrne is a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.