On November 24, 2014, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the U.S. DOE will “…phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments… to satisfy ….” This statement is offensive on legal grounds. Though States have permitted federal intrusion in order to access funding, the law clearly reserves control over public education to the states.
The landmark case of Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) recognized that students have to have equal access to school where states have guaranteed them a right to an education. It happens that all of the states in this country recognize a right to a public education. The Supreme Court reiterated this principle in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) 20 U.S.C. Section 6501, et. seq. provides funding for educational programs. 20 U.S.C. Section 6575 of the ESEA specifically says that “(n)othing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific … academic achievement standards and assessments….”
Should the Federal government be responsible for determining achievement standards and assessments? Maybe yes, maybe no, but current law holds that states retain control over determining academic and assessment standards. Under the current state of the law, Mr. Duncan’s pronouncement can only be characterized as over-reaching.
Thank you, advocate Pat Howey, for alerting the community to this announcement.