As several state education chiefs outlined their new plans under the Every Student Suceeds Act at a Senate hearing this week, some Democratic senators expressed concerns about the way U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was handling the approval process, Education Week reports.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), one the of most out-spoken critics on the education committee, expressed concerns that DeVos and her staff were too permissive in their approvals, noting that DeVos has not appeared before the House or Senate education committees since her installation.
In recent days, Murray and other colleagues have also criticized DeVos for not being aggressive enough in looking out for the interests of historically disadvantaged groups of students.
Despite earlier concerns — notably from Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — that DeVos and her office were taking a hard line on ESSA state plans, the main concern, at least among Democrats, now seems to be that the agency is offering states too much latitude. Some lawmakers fear that DeVos is not requiring states to follow ESSA guidelines closely and have expressed concern that she will not offer enough protection to disadvantaged student populations in the process.
In an interview with Education Week in September, DeVos indicated that she was planning to give states a good deal of latitude in order to restore greater autonomy.
"The legislation is lengthy and has way too many subparts that are more prescriptive than they need to be," DeVos said. "But, that being said, I'm encouraged that there are opportunities for states to really implement ESSA in a way that does allow a lot more creativity and flexibility, and I'm encouraging states to do so and not to err on the side of caution, but to really push and go up to the line, test how far it takes to go over it."
It seems that, after decades of complaints about the strict federal guidelines for education, state and local entities will now be granted more power. It is now up to states and school districts to prove that they can improve student outcomes and protect student rights on their own.