Friday, March 29, 2013


By Tom Chorneau - SI&A Cabinet Report.

Thursday, March 28, 2013  ::  The National School Boards Association and its 90,000 members are sponsoring legislation aimed at curbing the authority of the U.S. Secretary of Education – an outgrowth likely stemming from the group’s chilly relationship with the Obama administration during the president’s first term.

HR 1386 by Congressmen Aaron Schock, R-Illinois and Patrick Meehan, R-Pennsylvania would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from adopting any new regulations, rules or grant requirements without first offering the education community 60 days to provide written comments.

The bill would also restrict the education secretary from taking any new regulatory action that would conflict with the “power and authority” of local educational agencies or would add additional costs not supported by federal funding.

“A lot of the policies of the department have just been stepping over the authority of a locally-elected school board to make decisions that are in the best interest of their community and students,” said Erika Hoffman, legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association.

“What we are asking for in the bill, is an opportunity to review policies and have a voice in how it comes down – which we think is important,” she said.

Schock, a former member of the school board in his hometown of Peoria, said in framing his legislation that there is growing concern that regulatory actions from the Department of Education threaten to undermine the benefits of local school boards.

“The vital national interest in local self-governance of local educational agencies has been weakened through Department of Education requirements that are either unnecessary to achieve the specific direction of legislation enacted by the United States Congress, or that impose unnecessary limits on the flexibility needed by local educational agencies in order to meet local, state, and federal goals in education,” the bill states.

In a statement released Wednesday as part of a campaign to generate voter support for the bill, C. Ed Massey, president of the NSBA, said school boards need the legislation’s protection.

“Local school boards and local educators play a vital role in educating our nation’s school children which should not be eroded by unnecessary federal regulations,” he said.

The bill comes just a few months after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spent an uneasy session with members of the NSBA in January at the organization’s annual legislative conference in Washington D.C.

Duncan, who has led the administration’s effort to get states and schools on the common core standards and to link teacher test scores to student growth, has also developed a reputation for weakening the role of local school officials with a strategy the offers big federal grants conditioned on significant policy changes.

Thomas Gentzel, the executive director of NSBA, has also said that the organization is frustrated by the amount and breadth of regulation and guidance that the department has issued under Duncan.

Key parts of HR 1386 as currently proposed:

  • Unless specifically authorized by federal legislation, the Secretary shall not issue federal regulations, rules, grant conditions, guidance materials, or other requirements pertaining to a State educational agency or a local educational agency that:

(1) conflicts with the power and authority of a local education agency;

(2) results in additional costs to the local educational agency for reporting, grant administration, and general operations unless fully paid from federal funds;

(3) conflicts with the power and authority of the local educational agency to determine how to engage or act upon community participation and advice;

(4) imposes requirements on a local educational agency that would limit or adversely affect its authority to function as a legislative, executive or quasi-judicial agency;

(5) conflicts with the authority of a state to determine the appropriate governance structure of its local school districts, or the authority of a local educational agency to determine the appropriate governance and management of its schools and management of its schools;

(6) establishes reporting requirements for local educational agencies that duplicate existing federal requirements or that are issued without first conducting a fiscal impact statement related to the costs to local educational agencies including requests for data and recommendations from local educational agencies and national education organizations;

(or 7) places conditions or requirements on grants to a state or local educational agency that are not directly related to, or support the intent of the specific purposes of grant or the legislation authorizing such grant.

  • The Secretary shall annually provide local educational agencies and the major national educational organizations including those representing local school boards, local superintendents, principals, and teachers a minimum of sixty days in order to provide written comments regarding the local impact of implementing federal regulations, rules, grant conditions, guidance materials, or other requirements for any applicable program or activity of the Department.
  • Within 180 days after this bill is in enacted, the Secretary shall conduct a review of existing reporting requirements and eliminate any unnecessary duplications. Further, the Secretary shall not issue any regulation, rule, guidance material, grant condition or other requirement pertaining to a state educational agency or local educational agency without first: (1) requesting, with at least sixty days’ notice, data and recommendations from local school officials, local educators, and their national organizations relating to the educational, financial, and operational costs involved; (2) verifying from such local reporting that school districts will have the capacity to implement the federal requirements; and (3) ensuring that maximum flexibility and local decision-making is provided to local school districts in implementing the requirement.

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