U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today offered an amendment during the Committee’s consideration of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from offering waivers containing mandates in exchange for relief from onerous provisions of ESEA.
“I am concerned about recent Administration efforts to side step Congressional intent by offering strings-attached waivers to states. My amendment ensures that waivers are initiated at the state or local education entities’ request, and are not allowed to be a federal mandate in disguise.”
At issue is a plan announced in 2011 by the Department of Education to offer eleven waivers of ESEA requirements as well as four principles for “improving student achievement and increasing the quality of instruction.” With the exception of one optional waiver, states would be required to apply for all ten waivers and agree to implement four principles developed by the Department of Education.
“Unfortunately, it is evident that waivers have been granted only to those states that agree to implement the White House’s preferred education policies,” Roberts said. “In fact, The New York Times has referred to the waiver process as ‘the most sweeping use of executive authority to rewrite federal education law since Washington expanded its involvement in education in the 1960s.’”
The Roberts amendment prohibits the Secretary from imposing by regulation any additional requirements to waiver requests not authorized by Congress.
The amendment was cosponsored by Ranking Member Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY). The amendment was not approved with a vote of 10-12.