Congresswoman Foxx’s Advice to Betsy DeVos: “You can start with: Don’t do anything.”
Earlier this week the “TrumpEd” articlesection of the eSchool Media Website published an by Anna Douglas of the McClatchy news organization titled “Could the Education Department’s Days Be Numbered”. The short answer to the question posed in the title is “NO”… but, as the article notes, NC GOP Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is ready to do everything possible to minimize the impact of the department under Mr. Trump’s and Ms. DeVos’ leadership. Ms. Douglas writes:
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx wants the federal Department of Education to disappear. She wants Washington to stop passing down rules and regulations schools have to follow.
As the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, the seven-term North Carolina congresswoman has a powerful forum to talk about all that…
Foxx, who helped lead the writing of the 2016 Republican Party platform and served in House leadership, figures she’ll have to dilute Education Department power bit by bit. Already, she’s championing the use of a rare legislative tactic in Congress to eliminate some Obama administration regulations.
And Foxx is putting pressure on her colleagues in Congress to write the sort of legislation she wants, contending that some past laws were written sloppily and left too much leeway for federal departments to fill in gaps with rules and regulations.
Any federal educational policies, she told McClatchy in an interview, should come from lawmakers–not bureaucrats.
“We’ve got some good laws in place–let Congress do its oversight,” she said. “Sometimes doing nothing from the federal level is good.”
I would hope after seven terms in office that Ms. Foxx would understand the necessity for bureaucrats— not members of Congress— to write policy and develop regulations. Given the arcane financial products on the market, the detailed medical and scientific knowledge required to regulate health providers and consumer products, and the broad scope of Congress’ work it is hard to fathom how “lawmakers” could devise any meaningful policies in those fields.
I would also hope that Ms. Foxx realizes that if the federal government had “done nothing” in the past that poverty and inequality would be even more rampant in our country… and racial equality would be even more retrograde than it is now.
On the other hand, though, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s insistence that standardized tests be used as a metric for school quality and teaching effectiveness makes Ms. Foxx’s notion of “doing nothing” seem like a good idea. Indeed, one of the two items the GOP repealed using the Congressional Review Act was a misguided attempt by the Obama administration that “…required states to build a rating system for local teacher education programs, including judging teacher preparation based on student performance.” ETS and Pearson probably bemoaned that decision, but teacher educators and current teachers and administrators should be happy to see a de-emphasis on testing. The other item the GOP repealed, a “requirement to submit detailed school-accountability plans to the federal Education Department“, may or may not be salutary. Had standardized testing been a primary element of the “… detailed school-accountability plans”, in all probability the high-stakes testing regimen would have continued for another decade or so. But it is also possible that allowing the States to develop their own school accountability plans could lead to mis-use of tests by increasing VAM and/or ignoring any disparate scores that minority and low income students attain on such tests.
While ending the Department of Education is unlikely, it IS highly likely that the Department will be stripped of its authority. As Douglas explains:
Democrats in Congress will have limited power as Foxx and other conservatives look for a reset at the Education Department. Foxx said she’d found an ally in Secretary Betsy DeVos.
As things unfold, Foxx’s simple advice to DeVos has been: “You can start with: Don’t do anything.”
Rules, regulations and “dear colleague” letters from the department in the past incensed Foxx. Too often, she said, federal departments use regulations or executive power to distort legislative intent.
“We’re gonna stop this foolishness of letters and then people saying, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ Where is the authority for that? There’s no authority, but the school systems are scared,” she said.
One would hope that instead of “doing nothing” the federal government would pass legislation that intends to level the playing field for all students so that everyone, no matter what zip code they are born into, would have an equal opportunity. Alas, with Foxx, DeVos, and Trump setting the tone I do not foresee that kind of moral leadership forthcoming