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Alexander: New Education Law Means Blount County is Back in Charge of Its Classrooms

Tells Blount County Chamber that the law he wrote fixing No Child Left Behind ends Washington’s Common Core mandate, National School Board

“The Wall Street Journal called the new law the ‘largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter century,’ which means that control of Blount County schools is back in your hands – and my role is to be your most aggressive defender.”

MARYVILLE, Tenn., May 5, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told the Blount County Chamber that the new education law fixing No Child Left Behind repeals the federal Common Core mandate, reverses the trend toward a national school board, and “means Blount County is back in charge of its classrooms.”

“When I was campaigning for reelection, I told Tennessee voters that if they would re-elect me to the Senate that I would end the federal Common Core mandate and restore local control of schools and that’s exactly what we did in this Republican Congress,” Alexander said. “The Wall Street Journal called the new law ‘the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter century,’ which means that control of Blount County schools is back in your hands – and my role is to be your most aggressive defender.”

Alexander, who chairs the Senate education committee, worked last year to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed by the House 359–64, passed by the Senate 85–12, and signed by the president in December. 

“The new law was passed thanks to a unique coalition of national organizations—including governors, teachers, parents, superintendents, chief state school officers and principals—who became fed up with Washington telling those closest to the children so much about what to do in our 100,000 public schools,” Alexander said. “With this new law, the federal Common Core mandate is history. We have ended the National School Board run out of Washington, D.C. The ‘Mother May I’ conditional waivers are gone—as are the highly qualified teacher definition and requirements, teacher evaluation mandates, federal school turnaround models, federal test-based accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress. The Secretary of the Education Department is specifically prohibited from telling states how to set academic standards, what state tests to use, how to identify and fix low-performing schools, how to evaluate teachers and what state goals for student achievement and graduation rates must be. 

“Tennessee is now in the driver’s seat for decisions about its classrooms, and I have encouraged Tennessee teachers, principals, superintendents, legislators, along with Governor Haslam and Education Commissioner Candace McQueen not to wait on the Education Department but to work together now to write a new state education plan, which is necessary to receive federal dollars for Tennessee schools.” Alexander said. “The national coalition that worked together to get Washington out of Tennessee schools is now working to see that it is implemented it as Congress wrote it—a state coalition is just as important. 

Alexander then encouraged Blount County Chamber members to join the effort. “Many of you have children and grandchildren in Blount County schools,” he said. “Their teachers need to hear from you. So does everyone from your school board on up to your state legislators, education commissioner, and governor, as well as your senators and congressmen. We need your feedback as the state and your local school district begin to set their own high standards of learning without Washington telling them what to do or how to do it. I’m asking for your help. Keep the pressure on. Be sure to stay involved and stay in touch with me and my office as we work to ensure Washington stays out of our classrooms.” 

Alexander said the Senate education committee will hold at least six hearings this year on oversight and implementation of the new education law. Last month, at the committee’s second oversight hearing, Alexander told Education Secretary John King that there was already disturbing evidence that the Education Department is ignoring the law that Congress passed in December. He told Secretary King that if the department continued to ignore the law he would “use every power of Congress to make sure the law is implemented the way we wrote it,” including using the appropriations process and Congress’ ability to overturn regulations once they are final.

He continued, “We’re at the beginning of implementation of a law that ends the Common Core mandate, ends the National School Board, and affects 3.4 million teachers and 50 million students in 100,000 public schools. I hope you will join our effort to see that accountability for student achievement rests firmly in the hands of those closest to the children—with states, parents and classroom teachers. This is the way I believe we will inaugurate a new era of innovation and student achievement in our nation’s public schools.”