In response to the Obama Administration disapproval of a one-year extension of Oklahoma’s Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) flexibility, Oklahoma officials have responded with anger and disgust. Democrat candidate for governor, Joe Dorman disagrees.
“The Obama Administration doesn’t like when Oklahomans buck big government regulations, and [Thursday] the Administration responded by penalizing our children by failing to grant the one-year extension of the ESEA flexibility,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe.
“Oklahomans want education reform that sets standards created and certified by Oklahoma’s institutions, community leaders, and parents. Instead of supporting these values, the Obama Administration has chosen to make it more expensive and difficult to achieve the state’s education goals that, once met, will exceed the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education. As seen with ObamaCare taxes or the Endangered Species Act rulings, today’s decision continues the trend of this Administration punishing Oklahoma for making decisions that represent the goals and interests of its constituents.”
“Greater state and local control over education funding is vital to the success of Oklahoma’s students,” said Sen. Tom Coburn.
“The experiment in federal micro-management of our nation’s schools has proven to be a failure. This is what makes the Secretary’s decision to revoke Oklahoma’s ESEA flexibility so disappointing. As Oklahoma takes concrete steps to ensure our students are prepared for their future careers, the Department should give our schools the flexibility they need to succeed.”
“The revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver—just as students begin a new school year—demonstrates this Administration’s unwillingness to allow states the time to establish state-specific, high academic standards,” said Rep. James Lankford.
“The Administration granted an education funding waiver if Oklahoma would accept Common Core or if our state would establish college-ready standards. In May, our state chose to reject the Common Core standards and began writing our own. Because of that decision, the Administration has chosen to revoke what little flexibility and clarity Oklahoma educators were allowed by the federal government to help our students and teachers succeed amid a one-size-fits-all federal approach to education policy. The actions of the Administration today increase bureaucracy and decrease time to focus on academic standards.
“This is a glaring example of why the federal government should not dictate local education policy. In July of last year, the U.S. House passed an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization to protect local schools from new federal red tape and to provide school districts the flexibility to identify, recruit and retain the best teachers possible. Centralized, federally mandated curricula, inside-the-Beltway education funding priorities and impossible federal standards are not the answers to improve education in our nation,” Lankford added.
“Our state stood firm against further federal intrusion into the education of our children by rejecting the Common Core curriculum and determining that local educational leaders could best develop the appropriate curriculum for Oklahoma students,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine.
“Instead of applauding this constitutional decision and leadership, the Obama Administration decided today to reject the requested one year extension of flexibility previously granted to Oklahoma under ESEA. This politically motivated decision is the perfect example of how the unconstitutional federalization of education has effectively taken away the power reserved for the states and the people by our founders. It’s time to abolish the federal Department of Education and return power to the states consistent with the 10th Amendment.”
“I’m very frustrated by this decision not just as an Oklahoma Representative but also as a parent with children in public school,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin. “Like many Oklahoma families, my family depends on public education, and this irresponsible action promises to weaken our state’s ability to provide our youth with the education they need to be successful.”
“Oklahoma’s educators deserve maximum flexibility in order to provide our students with the tools to succeed,” said Rep. Frank Lucas. “Today’s decision reflects just how out of touch the Obama Administration is when it comes to the needs of Oklahoma’s students, and I urge the President to reconsider extending this critical education measure.”
“Although the waiver was not granted, I hope that the Department of Education works with the state to ensure a smooth transition,” said Rep. Tom Cole. “Changing the standards for a school year that has already begun is untenable and will not only be rushed but will likely be difficult to implement. I am disappointed that the Administration would cause such an unfair strain on the system in Oklahoma.”
On Aug. 25, the Oklahoma Delegation sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Arne Duncan requesting the agency to consider a one-year extension of Oklahoma’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility. The extension would have allowed Oklahoma to continue developing elementary and secondary education standards in conjunction with institutions of higher education in order to meet and exceed the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements.
The Delegation wrote, “On behalf of the State, we request that Oklahoma be afforded this one-year extension of the ESEA Flexibility in order to allow state leaders and educators the opportunity to focus on the development and implementation of Oklahoma college- and career- ready standards, as well as other State education reforms necessary to continue supporting the Principles of ESEA Flexibility.” You can read the full text of the letter by clicking here.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued the following statement Friday on the federal government’s denial:
“I believe in academic standards. I believe that we ought to ensure our students graduate prepared for life and to attend college if they so choose. High expectations matter to our future as a state and a country. But it is wholly inappropriate and unlawful for federal bureaucrats to dictate to the states what our standards should be. However, just yesterday, President Obama’s Education Secretary did what so many other federal agencies are doing under the leadership of this President — disregard the law and make it up as they go along. The law does not allow the secretary to condition Oklahoma’s waiver from No Child Left Behind on yielding the state’s right to define and establish standards. It would appear in this case the Obama administration has exceeded its authority under the law and my office will continue our examination of the best manner in which the state will respond.”
“The fault for Oklahoma losing its NCLB waiver lies squarely with Mary Fallin,” said Dorman. “Oklahoma could have kept its waiver, like Indiana did, if the Fallin-appointed State Regents for Higher Education had simply declared current standards ‘college-and career-ready’ or advised on how to craft new standards meeting those requirements. Instead, they and the State Board of Education, which Fallin also appointed, did nothing.”
“As usual, Fallin blames the federal government when the problem lies with her,” said Dorman. “When she signed the bill repealing Common Core, Fallin was directly asked in her press conference if the state would lose its waiver. She said, ‘There’s a possibility; we won’t know until that happens.’ Rather than working with the State Regents and Board of Education to at least attempt to fulfill the criteria to keep the waiver, she simply shrugged her shoulders. It’s an absolute failure of leadership.”
Dorman said the repeal of Common Core itself was not the reason for losing the waiver and promised his education plan would get Oklahoma its waiver back.
“Indiana, which also repealed Common Core, had its waiver extended. Unlike Oklahoma, its State Board of Education actually worked towards standards fulfilling the necessary criteria,” Dorman added.
Governor Fallin notes that Common Core was repealed with bipartisan legislation that passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate (HB 3399 passed 71-18 in the House and 37-10 in the Senate).
“It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” said Fallin. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students. I join parents, teachers, and administrators in being outraged by this decision, and I will fight it with every tool available to the state of Oklahoma.”
“Oklahomans spoke loud and clear: we do not want the federal government telling us what to teach our children or how to teach our children. We have great teachers and administrators. The Obama administration needs to get out of their way and let them do their jobs, rather than tying their hands with additional federal rules and regulations.”
“Oklahomans will continue the process of writing rigorous, robust new standards in English and mathematics,” said Fallin. “Our standards will set the bar higher than Common Core ever did. For the sake of our children, we can do no less.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said the federal government’s decision to deny the extension of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver will punish the state and further an agenda to control schools.
The decision could force Oklahoma schools to reexamine their budgets to comply with federal regulations. Bingman said the denial was a political statement intended to punish Oklahoma for implementing reforms that empower parents and communities and encourage the adoption of more rigorous educational standards.
“President Obama and the United States Department of Education have chosen to place politics ahead of the well-being of Oklahomans,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Our education reform efforts have been squarely focused on ushering in higher standards and empowering parents with choice and more ability to direct their children’s education. Unfortunately, the President and Washington bureaucrats have responded with a decision that attempts to place additional burdens on schools.”
Oklahoma this year repealed the Common Core standards with House Bill 3399, which was approved by broad, bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House. Sen. Josh Brecheen, who sponsored the proposal in the Senate, said the Legislature’s decision to repeal Common Core restored to the state the ability to establish curricular standards that exceed Common Core, with the input of families, teachers and school administrators.
“I am confident our repeal of Common Core will result in even higher standards and better educational outcomes, and it is an outrage that the federal government has chosen to punish us for our efforts to strengthen Oklahoma schools. The process for developing new academic standards specifically crafted to the needs of our students is advancing, and we are committed to fighting the federal government’s decision,” Brecheen added.