Democrats urge states to use original ESSA template

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House and Senate Democrats say they are "troubled" about implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the Every Student Succeeds Act because of changes under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that could muzzle input from stakeholders—an ESSA component required by law.

An April 3 letter to DeVos, signed by 19 lawmakers, asks for a full explanation of how requirements for stakeholder voice will be met under a new ESSA template for state-submitted plans. The revised template was released by DeVos just three weeks before the first deadline for state plans set by the Education Department. And the new form removes a section asking states to describe how their strategies were developed with extensive consultation and outreach—a feature supported by "numerous statutory requirements across multiple titles," the Democrats point out.

The letter goes on to urge states to submit their consolidated plans using the template developed in 2016 under the Obama administration. States still have the option of using the earlier form, which "appropriately requires states to provide assurances that stakeholders have been, and will continue to be, engaged in the development of state and district consolidated plans."

Democrats also called on DeVos to work with Congress "to give parents, teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, superintendents of rural school districts, Indian tribes, civil rights advocates, and other stakeholders the opportunity to consult meaningfully in the implementation of the ESSA, as Congress intended."

[Mike Rose]