When Congress passed a sprawling rewrite of the federal education law at the tail-end of 2015, it was hailed as a “Christmas miracle.”
Drafted, negotiated and passed by members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which overhauled the widely reviled No Child Left Behind by returning much of the authority over education to states, stood out as a shining example of bipartisanship in an ever-partisan, log jammed political system.
A little more than a year later, that milieu of goodwill in the education sphere has seemingly evaporated.
“We have been able to work together well for the past two years, and it’s because we have worked in good faith and across party lines to make sure we have what we needed to proceed,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said prior to the committee vote that cleared billionaire school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos, now Secretary of Education, for consideration by the full Senate.
Confirming DeVos in spite of staunch Democratic opposition, she warned committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was “a massive break with that strong bipartisan record, and it will dramatically impact our ability to work together in good faith going forward.”
Alexander, for his part, accused Democrats of unfairly holding up DeVos’ confirmation process.
While DeVos’ contentious confirmation garnered the lion’s share of media attention, across the Capitol and out of the spotlight House Republicans were moving on something just as noteworthy: They passed two, separate resolutions that would block the Department of Education from implementing rules set by the Obama administration.
The first resolution, which comes as states begin implementing the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, prevents the Department of Education from dictating prescriptive requirements for how they measure that achievement, using metrics such as school ratings, timelines for interventions for failing schools and student participation in state assessments.
[READ: Betsy DeVos Urges Common Ground, Students First in Opening Address as Education Secretary]
“By blocking implementation of the Obama administration’s accountability rule, we are giving states the certainty they need to move forward with their own efforts to implement the law,” said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., who authored the resolution.
Citing similar concerns of federal overreach, the second resolution negates an Obama-era regulation that dictates specific requirements states must use to determine the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs.
Democrats blasted the adoption of the resolutions, which passed the House on a party-line vote Tuesday afternoon.
“This resolution will cripple the Department of Education, and it will leave states like Colorado blind on how to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. “After months of bipartisan work on a new education law, it’s both disappointing and appalling that Republicans have chosen to move swiftly to undo all the progress we have made.”
[READ: Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary Despite Flood of Opposition]
Murray said the resolutions would deal a “devastating blow to students” and would “gut” the bipartisan law.
“Senate Republicans just jammed through a new Secretary of Education with no experience in public education and with every Democrat and two Republicans opposing her,” she said in a statement. “So now is the time for us in Congress to get back to working together to build on our bipartisan Every Student Succeed Act and invest in our students and schools, not for Republicans to poison the well with a partisan vote to gut our bipartisan law, give even more authority to the Secretary of Education to implement her anti-public school agenda, and open the door to students and communities across the country falling through the cracks.”
Despite the hand-wringing by Democrats, there isn’t much they can do able to do to block the resolutions.
Alexander, who’s been resistant to tampering with any part the law in an effort to ensure it’s implemented the way Congress intended it, said this week that he supported the resolutions. In addition, the White House signaled President Donald Trump would sign them should they clear the Senate.