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Alabama GOP Rep. Martha Roby Votes To Expand Federal Control Over Education

In December, Rep. Roby voted YES on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Although NCLB is in dire need of change, Congress missed its opportunity to get it right. Considering that legislators only had 48 hours to review the 1,061-page bill before voting, I guess that’s no surprise. 

Martha Roby should have voted “NO” along with Reps. Gary Palmer and Mo Brooks, as this bill erodes parents’ and states ’rights and continues to allow federal control over educational standards and content.  Most importantly, this bill does nothing to stop the Common Core.  If it did, then why has it been endorsed and Becky Gerritsonpraised by every major Common Core proponent, including the National Governors Association, which holds the copyright on the standards. As if all of this weren’t bad enough, ESSA expands the scope of federal intrusion in many, many other respects.  For example, its inclusion of new preschool programs merely extends the reach of Common Core down to toddlers.   

Rep. Roby inserted a few sentences that she believed made the bill worthy of passage.  Yet, that language merely replicates language that also appeared in NCLB. If these provisions didn’t stop the Secretary of Education from imposing Common Core in the past, then results going forward doesn’t make sense.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s praise for the new bill in an interview with Politico sheds doubt on the US Department of Education being limited under ESSA: 

“[I]f you look at the substance of what is there . . .embedded in the law are the values that we’ve promoted and proposed forever. The core of our agenda from Day One, that’s all in there – early childhood, high standards, not turning a blind eye when things are bad. For the first time in our nation’s history, that’s the letter of the law.” 

The provision on conditional grants—although new and laudable—would in most, or perhaps all, instances be covered under existing NCLB prohibitions.  For example, NCLB stated that “no State shall be required to have academic content or student academic achievement standards approved or certified by the Federal Government, in order to receive assistance under this Act.” The Secretary violated this prohibition by requiring states to adopt Common Core or “college-and-career-ready standards” in order to receive a waiver. 

Prohibitions on federal activity are a farce unless they give the parties whom they are intended to protect an easy enforcement mechanism with clear and identifiable penalties and remedies.  As with the previously existing prohibitions intended to protect the states and the people, this language failed to include those critical elements.  The federal government repeatedly violated the previous prohibitions, and we must expect that it will do so again.  Rep. Roby’s vote for ESSA is evidence that this Constitutional lesson is one she fails to understand. 

While she believes her actions are worthy of praise, they are not. Once again, Rep. Roby has colluded with elites in Congress to the great disadvantage of citizens in District 2.  We must elect people to Congress who will rebuke the status quo and pass legislation that will actually return education back to state and local government.

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