Born of bipartisan concern over federal intrusion into K–12 education, the Every Student Succeeds Act may soon bear fruit.
In Washington, a big part of the Republican project for 2017 is cleaning up a litany of Obama excesses. But in the states, perhaps the biggest challenges will be fulfilling the promise of the last major law that Obama signed — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). States are now finalizing plans for how, beginning this fall, they will proceed under ESSA.
ESSA was enacted in December 2015 by massive majorities in both houses of Congress, largely because both parties had grown tired of the Obama administration’s feckless intrusions into K–12 education. On the right, conservative activists were up in arms about Washington’s efforts to bribe and coerce states into adopting the Common Core. On the left, teachers’ unions were every bit as upset over similar efforts to get states to embrace half-baked, one-size-fits-all teacher-evaluation systems. That unlikely alliance turned the old genial, bipartisan consensus for a steadily expanding federal role in education on its head, and the Wall Street Journal cheered ESSA as “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”
ESSA marked a dramatic improvement over its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, and held out the promise of restraining a Department of Education that had run amok. Such hopes dimmed as Obama’s secretary of education, proposing to....