Skip to Content

Van Roekel urges regulatory relief without strings attached

NEA: schools don’t need more hoops to jump through

WASHINGTON - June 13, 2011 -

In an op-ed published in Politico yesterday and reiterated on a conference call with reporters today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the Department of Education “will develop a plan that trades regulatory flexibility for reform.  If Congress does not complete work on [ESEA] reauthorization soon, we will be prepared with a process that will enable schools to move ahead with reform in the fall.” In the piece, Duncan acknowledged that unless the federal government acts, an “overwhelming number of schools in the country may soon be labeled as ‘failing,’ eventually triggering impractical and ineffective sanctions.”  As a result, Duncan continues, “states and districts are spending billions of dollars each year on one-size-fits-all mandates dictated from Washington.”
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement:

“Secretary Duncan has acknowledged the need to intervene if Congress doesn’t act, but he’s clearly signaled that any relief would be coupled with more unmanageable hurdles for schools and students.  There is widespread and bipartisan agreement that NCLB is a flawed law that harms every school and every student.  Relief that is not provided to every school and every student isn't relief; it's just more of the same bad patchwork quilt of disparities in our education system.

“The logic just doesn’t add up. On the one hand, the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges that the law is broken, but at the same time, the department keeps suggesting more layers of bureaucracy when we should be peeling them away.  Our students and schools need regulatory relief, not more hoops to jump through on a never-ending obstacle course.  Students need lessons in math, science, reading, technology, and critical thinking, not a master class in bureaucracy.  Our cash-strapped schools don’t have the resources to meet the many existing mandates, much less the time and resources to meet another layer of rules or for a lengthy application process to get the government to lift those burdens. 

“Do we need to protect disadvantaged students and ensure that districts continue to work to close gaps? The answer is unequivocally, yes.  But not by perpetuating a system that allows students to be cast as winners or losers.
“Our members want Congress to get it right this time for them and their students. They want accountability systems with multiple measures of school performance and student learning.  They want Congress to revise testing rules to allow students to show what they really know and can do.  They want a system that considers students with disabilities and English Language Learners.  They want Congress to align the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) requirement with the needs of rural and small schools and teachers who teach multiple subjects. And they want Congress to ensure that collective bargaining is respected in critical decisions.  Our 3.2 million members are ready to work with government at all levels to ensure that all students get the great public education they deserve.”

To read NEA’s letter to the Dept.of Education containing a proposed list of regulation changes, click here.
For’s coverage of the call for regulatory relief, click here.
Follow us on twitter at

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823,