Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority Through Regulatory Fiat"
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 21, 2016
When the committee last met to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act, we heard concerns from state and local education leaders that the administration is not implementing the law in a way that respects its letter and intent. Since that time, the Department of Education has released a regulatory proposal so unprecedented—and so unlawful—that it demands its own examination.
The proposal I’m referring to is the department’s proposed “supplement, not supplant” regulation. This proposal changes the long-standing policy that federal funds supplement—rather than supplant—state and local resources. For years, the rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served. As a result, schools faced different requirements—some more onerous than others. That changed with the Every Student Succeeds Act—legislation that was passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.
Now, according to the law, the rule should be enforced equally across all schools. Districts only have to show that funds are distributed in a way that doesn’t take into account federal resources, and Congress deliberately chose not to prescribe a specific approach or outcome. The law also clearly prohibits the secretary of education from interfering in the process. However, that is exactly what this proposed rule would do, and the consequences will be significant.
As Chairman Kline explained when the regulation was proposed, it threatens to impose a multi-billion dollar regulatory tax on schools across the country. To comply with the policy, many school districts will have no choice but to change their hiring practices and relocate their teachers. Other communities may have to raise taxes because they simply don’t have the resources to meet this new burden. Some districts may have to do both.
Regardless of how a district must cope with the new regulation, the bottom line is that schools will be forced to make decisions based on getting the numbers to work—not on what’s best for their students—and the federal government will have unprecedented control over local education funding.
The department has said that its proposal will provide schools “flexibility,” but it really just dictates a short list of bad options. And, at the end of the day, it will be America’s poorest neighborhoods that are impacted most. That is the last thing Congress intended when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In fact, Congress considered similar reforms during debate of the legislation that focused on a separate provision, comparability. Instead, Congress specifically chose not to touch that provision and flat out rejected adopting a policy like the one the department is now trying to impose.
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