Senate Vote to Rescind Teacher Prep, ESSA Accountability Regulations

The Senate took action this week to rescind two sets of education regulations under the authority of the Congressional Review Act – rules governing teacher preparation programs under the Higher Education Act (HEA) and regulations on accountability and State plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


On the resolution to revoke the ESSA accountability rule, the Senate voted mostly down party lines, with only one Republican defecting to vote no – Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).  The resolution to rescind the HEA regulations, which require States to report on the success of teacher preparation programs, was approved by a wider 59-40 vote margin.


Republicans argued that both sets of regulations represent an overreach by the federal government and that decision-making authority regarding education should be delegated to the States.  The repeal of the ESSA regulations lends uncertainty to States, many of which have been working on crafting their State plans according to the regulations.  Now States must rely on the statutory language of ESSA and any future guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  ED reportedly plans to make public a new State plan template on Monday, March 13th.


The Senate’s action received mixed reviews from stakeholders.  Many civil rights organizations and the American Federation of Teachers condemned the repeal of the ESSA regulations, noting concern that States will not be adequately held accountable to improve poorly-performing schools.  In addition, the National Council on Teacher Quality opposed the Senate’s action on the teacher-preparation rules on the basis of transparency and accountability concerns, but the American Association of State Colleges and Universities praised the move and said it hopes to work with Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this year and reset federal involvement in higher education.


The House passed both of these resolutions last month, so now the measures will be sent to President Trump who has indicated he plans to sign them.


Alex Arriaga, “Senate Does Away With Obama Teacher-Prep Regulations,” Chronicle, March 8, 2017.
Emma Brown, “Senate Scraps Obama Regulations on School Accountability,” Washington Post, March 9, 2017.

About the Author

Kelly Christiansen is an associate with the Washington, DC law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Title I Association.