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.

CL4E Weighs In on Department’s Proposed Supplement Not Supplant Rule

This week, several members of the Conservative Leaders for Education coalition officially submitted comments on the proposed “supplement not supplant” rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Education under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In the letter the coalition of state lawmakers and education education officials called for the Department to rewrite their proposed language noting that the rules are “overly prescriptive and will end up complicating and inhibiting the efforts of educators and policymakers on the ground to meet the real challenges of students and teachers.”

Click here for the full letter or see below.


November 7, 2016

James Butler
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 3W246, Washington, DC 20202.

Docket ID:  ED-2016-OESE-0056


Dear Mr. Butler,

Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E) is a new initiative chaired by former Education Secretary William Bennett and comprised of state policy-makers and legislators with an acute interest in and purview over state education policy.  Specifically, we have articulated four fundamental principles that we believe should underpin education policy:  Local Control, Choice, Accountability, and Quality Content.  To learn more about these principles and our efforts visit our website at

We write today to provide a state policy perspective on the U.S. Department of Education’s (DoE) proposed rules for implementation of the “supplement, not supplant” requirement in the expenditure of title I, part A federal funds.

We want to first emphasize that as a group of state policy-makers we do not take a position on how any given state or LEA should expend, and account for the expenditure of these funds, in their overall compliance with the long-standing supplement, not supplant requirement.  The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) specifically, and wisely, left those specific policy and budgeting decisions at the state and local levels.

We do write in support of maintaining state and local decision-making in how best to both comply with the federal supplement, not supplant requirement AND most effectively innovate to help the schools and students these federal funds are directed to.

In reviewing this NPRM we were first struck — and frankly somewhat shocked — by the following sentence in DoE’s own summary of the NPRM (at Page 61153, emphasis added): “The proposed regulation would require that an LEA distribute almost all state and local funds they receive through one of the three methodologies.”[1]

It is hard to overstate the sweeping nature of not only this statement, but the very concept that the distribution of “almost all state and local funds” by every school district across this huge and diverse nation is best accomplished by 1 of 3 systems designed or driven by Washington, D.C.  As state policy-makers we recognize the incredible diversity of circumstances and challenges LEA’s face just within our own state’s borders.  Even at the state level we are very cautious to presume that an approach that might work for some LEAs is also the correct approach for all of them in the state.

While some may respond that there does exist the fourth “special rule” that an LEA might consider developing on its own, compliance with that “special rule” process is extremely cumbersome, and further still requires an LEA to complete its budget calculations in a manner that simply disregards unique circumstances at individual schools within an LEA, such as differences in staff experience levels.

This kind of federal micro-management is exactly what the ESSA intended to shift away from.

As state education policy-makers, we have no higher priority than attempting to raise the academic performance of challenged students and struggling schools.  Title I funds can be an important part of developing a comprehensive strategy in each state and LEA towards that crucial goal.  There is simply no reason to hamstring that state and local policy development and innovation by forcing it to fit within one of a handful of federally approved approaches.  The longstanding supplement, not supplant requirement can be met without putting these kind of new federal barriers in place.

As is too often the case, what may be well-meaning but overly prescriptive federal regulations can actually end up complicating and inhibiting the efforts of those at the ground level in their efforts to meet the very real challenges these students and schools face on a daily basis.

We note that the Council of Chief State School Officers submitted draft regulations demonstrating that compliance with the supplement, not supplant requirement does not require the kind of federal micro-management represented by the current NPRM.

We encourage DoE to return to the drawing board and start this process anew with a focus not on creating a couple of approved federal forms and formulas for thousands of LEAs and all the states to then figure out how to conform to, but instead a focus on how the federal program rules can actually help and encourage states and LEAs to innovate in finding better ways to serve these students and schools with the federal funds that have been specifically allocated for that purpose.



Representative Paul Boyer (AZ)

Chair, House Education Committee

Senator Owen Hill (CO)
Chair, Senate Education Committee

Mary Scott Hunter (AL)
Representative, Alabama Board of Education

Senator Peggy Lehner (OH)
Chair, Senate Education Committee

Senator Luther Olsen (WI)
Chair, Senate Education Committee

Representative Amanda Price (MI)
Chair, House Education Committee

Senator Howard A. Stephenson (UT)
Chair, Senate Education Committee

Senator Mike Wilson (KY)
Chair, Senate Education Committee

(All signatories are founding members of Conservative Leaders for Education)

[1] The three methodologies DoE is referring to are:  1. A per-pupil weighted formula; 2. A resource allocation formula, (as many LEAs and the CCSSO have detailed in submitted comments, neither of these first two methodologies comport with actual budget practices or solid educational decision-making in most LEAs) or; 3. A new state developed funds-based formula, but the proposed requirements for development of such a new statewide budgeting formula are exceeding complex and cumbersome.