Oklahoma Delegation Responds to Obama Administration’s Failure to Grant ESEA Extension

Aug 28, 2014 Issues: Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Oklahoma delegation criticized the Obama Administration for failing to approve a one-year extension of Oklahoma’s Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Flexibility:

“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.”

"The Obama Administration doesn't like when Oklahomans buck big government regulations, and today the Administration responded by penalizing our children with 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.”

“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 allow for 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. 

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Contact: Kelly Ferguson (202) 225-2132