CL4E Chairman Dr. William Bennett: Refocusing the Conversation in Alabama

In a recent opinion piece, Alabama State Board of Education Member Mary Scott Hunter, refocused the conversation on the results of the state’s new A-F grading system. While the initial evaluation of the state’s schools, districts, and the overall education system were surprising and disturbing, Mary Scott took this opportunity to call upon parents to examine where schools are struggling to produce solid results and how communities can foster a better learning environment for our children.

As a state education leader and mother, Mary Scott’s call to action for involvement is the right direction. A-F grading systems, and other statewide evaluation tools are not always the perfect method nor do they answer every question. But they can be an important tool to give local leaders more information and a good starting point when it comes to examining how they can improve outcomes in critical measures like academic achievement and growth, graduation rates, college and career readiness, and chronic absenteeism.

During my time as Secretary of Education in President Reagan’s Administration, we sought to find areas where parents, educators, and community members could take control at the state level and reform local education systems. Similarly, these report card results empower Alabamians with better information to really reshape their education systems and their evaluation methods.

I commend education champions like Mary Scott Hunter who are seizing the opportunity to use these results as a way to engage families and communities across the state. With this strong state and local leadership, I look forward to the improvements that will be reflected in Alabama’s report card in years to come.

William J. Bennett is the former Secretary of Education and currently serves as Chairman of Conservative Leaders for Education.

CL4E Chairman Dr. William Bennett – Here’s What To Expect From State Education Reform Efforts In 2018

The year 2018 will be a momentous one for federal and state education efforts. Legislatures across the country have convened and leaders will have an unprecedented opportunity to shape K-12 education policy.

As states begin to receive the green light on their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools and districts can now exercise the enhanced flexibility they need to provide a tailored learning environment for their students.

These plans would not come to fruition without strong state leadership. I have the privilege of working with various state leaders and seeing their policy efforts grow under this law. Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E) is a coalition comprised of leading state policymakers focused on ensuring that conservative principles gain traction in state decisions. CL4E is made up of leaders serving in House and Senate Education Chairmanships, state Boards of Education, and executive leadership…[Read More]

Daily Caller | 2.16.18

School grading from a mom and education policy-maker’s perspective

CL4E and Alabama State Board of Education Member Mary Scott Hunter authored an opinion piece on the recently released A-F grading scores for schools, districts, and the overall education system in the state.

In 2012, the Alabama Legislature passed the School Performance Recognition Program Act and required the state, school systems, and individual schools be graded utilizing an A-F grading system.

A few weeks ago, the statewide score was released, and Alabama as a whole received a grade of “C.” On February 1, officials released a second round of grades for all Alabama schools and districts. The grades are based upon the following five factors: Academic Achievement (20%), Academic Growth (30%), Graduation Rate (30%), College and Career Readiness (10%), and Chronic Absenteeism (10%)…[Read More]

New Paper and Video Series Highlight How States Are Seizing Local Control Under ESSA

Leadership in Arizona, Colorado and Kentucky show states are serious about moving away from just Federal compliance

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — This week, Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E) released a new series of white papers and videos that shed light on some of the bold, new visions shaping education policy in states across the country. At the heart of all these cases, are CL4E members who are striving to bring education decision-making back to the local level and ensure all students in their states are receiving an education that prepares them for college and 21st-century careers.

Read More Here.

Alabama State Board of Education President Pro Tem and CL4E Member Mary Scott Hunter issues letter to Sec. of Education

Mary Scott Hunter sent a letter to Sec. DeVos asking for testing flexibility under ESSA as the Alabama moves to develop alternative testing for students. She highlights the opportunity for Alabama to exact choice and flexibility through local control under ESSA. On June 21, 2017 the school board unanimously voted to approve a resolution to drop ACT Aspire.

On June 22, 2017 Alabama leaders and federal officials reached an agreement allowing Alabama to remove the current standardized test and find a new exam that aligns with the state’s accountability plan.

To read the full letter click [here].

CL4E Member Sen. Owen Hill urges Bennet to eschew politics in DeVos nomination vote, touts her as Colorado-style education reformer

By: John Tomasic

The Colorado Statesman | 1/31/17

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican and school choice champion, held a telephone press conference Monday on which he lauded multi-millionaire school reform advocate Betsy DeVos as the right person to head the U.S. Department of Education for the Trump administration. The call was meant to put pressure on Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to vote for the DeVos confirmation.

“We know Michael Bennet shares values [with DeVos]” — on fostering diversity of options to increase choice for parents and students, Hill said. So it would be clear, he continued, that “Bennet’s opposition to her confirmation would be for political reasons…” [more].

CL4E Member Sen. Hill to champion embattled Trump education nominee DeVos in telepresser

By John Tomasic

The Colorado Statesman | 1/26/17

State Sen. Owen Hill will host a teleconference Monday to help generate support for the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice to head the department of education.

Hill, a Republican from Colorado Springs, chairs of Senate’s education committee and has been a leading school choice advocate at the Capitol for years and a champion of DeVos since she was nominated this month… [more]


5 Ideas For Betsy DeVos To Devolve Education Policy From Washington To The States

By Karen Nussle, Executive Director, CL4E

Daily Caller | 1/17/2017

With the confirmation hearing of Secretary of Education-Nominee Betsy DeVos just days away, critical decisions involving the future of our executive branch are still far from over.

The mix up of leadership in Washington is undoubtedly a tremendous opportunity to continue education reform that has been happening over the last year, but with a twist. With help from DeVos – a known state education reformer – conservative lawmakers across the country now have the chance to take the reins away from the federal bureaucracy and shape meaningful state policy for students in their states.

With this spirit in mind, members from our conservative education reform coalition, Conservative Leaders for Education, have fashioned five ideas on how we can work with Betsy DeVos to keep Washington out of our state education systems…[more]


CL4E Releases New Policy Platform

This week, Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E) released a new policy document using our coalition’s four foundational principles, with real ideas that our members can use when tackling education policy discussions back in their states.

Click here to view the full document.

President-Elect Trump: Think outside the box on Sec of Ed

By Karen Nussle, Executive Director, CL4E

As a conservative that works in the education policy arena, I am hopeful that President-elect Trump is true to his “outsider” brand when picking a cabinet secretary for the Department of Education.  Trump voters could not have been clearer in communicating their expectations:  give us something new and different. Not the same old tired political class that has dominated Washington and our government for decades.  Shake it up. Do the unexpected.  Give some new, smart people a chance to direct the affairs of the country.  So I’m hoping in this cabinet pick, we see some new, exciting local stars and not tired, Washington based think tankers or politicians.

To break the recent trend, the Trump transition needs to look first to state leaders who are on the front lines of actually doing the hard work of transforming education – not just talking or writing about it.  New, in some instances young, leaders who have a track record of showing how to advance conservative education policy.

Who would I recommend?  Here are some candidates that I think make the grade.

Lisa Graham Keegan – former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Keegan is a true conservative — she was vice-Chair of the Republican platform committee in 2008 and has served numerous prominent republican leaders from Governor Jan Brewer to former Speaker Newt Gingrich.  But most recently Keegan has been a tireless advocate for the expansion of charter schools in Arizona (now one of the top 10 states in the nation for charters), and as current Executive Director of “A for Arizona” she is breaking ground in showing that low income public schools can be high achievers.  She is on the front lines of some of the most exciting progress happing in K-12 education and she has the skills to help other states model these reforms while getting the federal government out of the way. Plus anyone who has raised 5 children can certainly handle Congress.

Dr. Carlos Campo – prominent Hispanic evangelical leader and current President of Ashland University, Campo would be an excellent choice to head DoE.  The education focus in the near future will be on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, so someone with experience in higher education, rather than K-12, would be a smart choice.  Campo would have instant credibility with conservatives (he served as President of Regent University) and is a passionate advocate for Hispanic children, who will soon become a majority in America’s public school population. He has an impressive track record as an actual classroom educator and would be a refreshing outsider to occupy America’s top education job.

Secretary Hanna Skandera – as current Secretary of Education in New Mexico, Skandera has made a name for herself as a bold leader who is not afraid to take on the education establishment.  Skandera led the state’s transition from the one-size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind to a New Mexico-based framework for supporting students and schools.  She has expanded choices for parents and students by expanding access to charter schools, and most importantly, she slashed the Public Education Department’s budget by 30% while directing more dollars to students and teachers in the classroom.  Skandera’s local education experience spans 4 states (NM, TX, CA and FL, where she was deputy commissioner) and in all of those places she served Republican chief executives. She is a state leader that knows how to enact conservative education policy and can help other states do the same while keeping the federal Education Department’s footprint to a minimum.

State Legislative Leaders – we have several shinning stars among our members in Conservative Leaders for Education.  All of them would make excellent choices as they all have considerable experience in education policy and several are actual educators (check them out here).  For example, Senator Owen Hill.  Senator Hill is Chairman of the Colorado Senate Education Committee, is an Air Force veteran and homeschooling father of four young children. What a refreshing choice he would make!  Hill is known as a limited government conservative who is working to expand parental choices in education.  In his own words, “The current system of concentrated power at the federal government needs to be transformed into a model where local government in conjunction with personal liberty is the priority. This will help us create thousands of local community laboratories experimenting with the best mix of limited government, personal responsibility, and neighborly generosity that help us live flourishing lives in the modern world. This is what our Founders meant when they wrote of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  His number one priority has been to expand the number of Colorado kids that get to choose their school, and he has been quite successful at that, as currently one in seven Colorado school children has chosen the school they attend.

Dr. Tony Zeiss – Zeiss is the outgoing president of Central Piedmont Community College, one of the largest community colleges in North Carolina, serving approximately 70,000 students per year.  During his tenure, the college grew from one campus to six and has become recognized as a national leader in Workforce Development.  A leader from the higher education community would be timely, given Congress’ interest in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and someone familiar with the Community College system would be a bonus. Zeiss clearly has experience with big systems and could bring some much needed conservative leadership to the Department.

Betsy DeVos – hailing from Michigan, a state that helped give Trump the Presidency, DeVos is a known conservative leader and a ferocious education reformer.  She has served as Chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and as the Republican National Committee woman for the state.  Through her family foundation she has significantly helped to advance efforts around school choice and charter schools in many states around the country.  DeVos is Chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as “a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.” She has said her overall goal is that “all parents, regardless of their zip code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children. And that all students have had the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.”

Secretary Bill Bennett – I would be remiss if I did not include Conservative Leaders for Education’s own chairman, former Secretary Bill Bennett.  The case for Bennett is strong. As Ronald Reagan’s Education Secretary, Bennett is the only person on the planet who can claim to have actually reduced the size of the Federal Department of Education.  He is a conservative’s conservative, award winning academic, a two-time former cabinet secretary, best-selling author and one of the best darn communicators in the Republican party (he should have run for President).  He would bring the ultimate in conservative thinking to significantly reducing the size and scope of the Department of Education while leading the way for parent choice and quality content in schools  – he’s done it before.