National school boards group blasts U.S. Education Department

(Jacquelyn Martin-Associated Press)
(Jacquelyn Martin-Associated Press)

The National Schools Board Association Tuesday blasted the Obama administration’s education policies, saying that the Education Department under Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion” onto local school districts.

Here is a news release issued Tuesday by the association, which is holding a conference in Washington D.C.

Alexandria, Va. (Jan. 29, 2013) – More than 700 school board members and state school boards association leaders will be meeting with their members of Congress and urging them to co-sponsor legislation, developed by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

School board leaders are in Washington D.C. to take part in NSBA’s 40th annual Federal Relations Network Conference, being held Jan. 27-29, 2013.

The proposed legislation would ensure that the Department of Education’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that the Department of Education would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials.

“In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education has engaged in a variety of activities to reshape the educational delivery system,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “All too often these activities have impacted local school district policy and programs in ways that have been beyond the specific legislative intent. School board leaders are simply asking that local flexibility and decision-making not be eroded through regulatory actions.”

Additionally, this legislation is intended to provide the House of Representatives and Senate committees that oversee education with better information regarding the local impact of Department of Education’s activities. The legislation is also designed to more broadly underscore the role of Congress as the federal policy-maker in education and through its representative function.

“We must ensure that the decisions made at the federal level will best support the needs and goals of local school systems and the communities they serve,” said Gentzel. “Local school boards must have the ability to make on-the-ground decisions that serve the best interests of our school districts.”

You can see the draft legislation proposed by the association by clicking here.

During President Obama’s first term, Duncan’s Education Department was proactive in asserting a strong federal role in education policy. The department has linked federal funds and permission to ignore the most onerous mandates of No Child Left Behind through its Race to the Top competition and its program to offer waivers from NCLB requirements.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · January 29, 2013