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3 Conservative Victories From K-12 Education Overhaul

Hello, friends, and happy Bill of Rights Day!

Last week, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) largely replaced No Child Left Behind Act when President Obama signed it into law. Conservatives have much to celebrate with ESSA.

First, ESSA reduces the federal role in K-12 education. ESSA repeals a federal accountability system and 49 ineffective federal programs, and it eliminates Washington from deciding which teachers and schools are succeeding or failing.

Second, ESSA restores control of schools to states and local leaders. The law allows states to opt out of federal education programs and affirms that states control their own standards. ESSA also provides local school districts with greater funding flexibility.

Finally, ESSA puts to an end to the president’s use of conditional waivers to NCLB to force his education agenda onto states and local schools. In July, Neil Bradley, CRN’s chief strategy officer, addressed the president’s use of his waiver authority to impose his agenda, notably Common Core, on states and local schools. In fact, ESSA goes further than allowing for a waiver authority: ESSA expressly prohibits Washington from mandating or, as was the case with the president’s conditional waivers, incentivizing Common Core.

While we celebrate these conservative victories in ESSA, there remains much to be done to ensure America’s students receive the best possible education and an opportunity for a better future. For example, federal law should not lock students from low-income families into failing schools. Instead, policymakers should provide portability for Title I aid; students’ federal aid should transfer with them to schools that better fit their needs.

Regardless, conservatives have much to celebrate with ESSA’s overhaul of the federal role in K-12 education.