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Senator Says Betsy DeVos Backs Letting States Opt Out of Federal Oversight

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to be education secretary, indicated she would support previous federal legislation giving Washington a lot less oversight of public schools, according to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

Daines met with DeVos last week and said they discussed the federal A-PLUS Act, which would have allowed states to opt out of federal accountability mandates regarding testing and identifying low-performing schools. It also would have turned federal funding for schools into block grants for states to use. 

In a press release last week, Daines said he and DeVos discussed the proposal, which "would reduce the administrative and compliance burdens on state and local education agencies, and ensure greater public transparency about the use of federal education funds and student academic achievement." The A-PLUS Act was considered as an amendment to what became the Every Student Succeeds Act, but the Senate rejected it in July 2015.

The Billings Gazette reported last Friday that according to Daines, DeVos "indicated her support for an education proposal that split Republicans during the passage of a new federal education law," according to Daines.

A spokesman for DeVos did not immediately reply to a request for comment. DeVos has previously backed an A-F school accountability model, although her overall attitude to school accountability, and for charter schools in particular, has been the subject of much debate since Trump nominated her late last year.

The A-PLUS Act was also backed by former GOP presidential hopefuls Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. When we mentioned Cruz's support for the A-PLUS Act last year, we wrote, "Basically, whether it involves, standards, curriculum, or assessments, Cruz doesn't want the federal government anywhere near what states or districts want to do."

However, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and the Senate education committee chairman, said of the A-PLUS Act amendment during the 2015 ESSA debate: "This is unnecessary, misintentioned, won't pass, and undermines the bipartisan agreement that we've reached."

ESSA keeps in place the testing mandates from the No Child Left Behind Act, the previous iteration of federal education law, but it does grant states and districts more power over how those tests are used, as well as strategies to help struggling schools. 

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