Conservative Leader William Bennett to Lead Coalition of Republican Education Leaders

GOP Leaders With Bold Vision for Shaping Education Policy In Their State Will Do So Through Local Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act

Washington – William J. Bennett, former Education Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, noted author, and award-winning professor in academia will chair a new organization called Conservative Leaders for Education. Comprised of leading Republican state lawmakers and education policy makers, the initiative’s focus will be to ensure that conservative principles and reforms gain traction in state policy decisions and ESSA implementation. The impetus for the formation of the group was last year’s enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and returns much of the control and decision making in education policy back to the states. ESSA requires states to develop state-specific implementation plans covering things like teacher evaluations, assessments, and plans on how they will intervene in the states’ lowest performing schools.

“For years, conservatives have pushed for more local control of education, and now they have it thanks to ESSA. But it’s critically important that Republicans now take an active role in shaping the implementation of this new law in their states so that all students benefit from the best education possible,” said Secretary Bennett. “Republicans currently control more state legislatures than at any time in modern history. ESSA presents us with a unique window in time to shape education policies in a way that leaves a lasting and meaningful imprint.”

The initial group of coalition members consists of state education chairs across eight different states- AL, AZ, CO, KY, MI, OH, UT and WI- with the plan to continue to add additional members who are interested in shaping their local education policy.

“The Left is already mobilizing around the ESSA implementation process and rallying support for what they believe is important. There needs to be balance in the system and a platform for conservatives to voice their views, exchange ideas, and provide information to others looking for help,” said Kentucky Senator, Mike Wilson.

“The Conservative Leaders for Education coalition provides legislators like myself who have not been entrenched in education policy for the past decade a unique opportunity to come together and collaborate on how to best move forward under ESSA,” said Representative Amanda Price, chair of the Michigan House Education Committee. “I am hopeful that the new state flexibility under ESSA will enable us to create more ambitious, state- specific goals and aspirations for our education system, but that will only be possible if we design our state accountability systems based upon principles that support the rights of parents, encourage transparency, and engender accountability.”

Conservative Leaders for Education was founded on a set of four conservative core principles that will help drive these key decision makers in their states as the new law is implemented. Those principles include:

  1. Local Control: Reaffirm that educating students is predominately the responsibility of states and localities, especially in the areas of funding, personnel, reviving poorly performing schools, and academic standards and aligned tests.
  2. Parent Choice: Advance educational choices and innovation for parents and students by trusting that parents will do what is best for their children, while not absolving lawmakers from providing oversight.
  3. Accountability: Demand that states, local districts, and individual schools be transparent through the provision of information to parents that is accessible, timely, comparable, and easy-to-understand. Superintendents, principals, teachers, and others need to be held accountable fairly for student learning or the lack of it.
  4. Quality Content: Assert that high academic standards and aligned tests – both chosen by the state – are crucial because they evaluate what a student is learning.