The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing Tuesday to evaluate the consequences of federal regulations on our nation’s schools. Serving as witnesses at the hearing were Dr. Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of Loudoun County (VA) Schools; Kati Haycock, president of Education Trust; Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; and Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Chairman John Kline (R-MN) began the hearing with an overview of the strain federal regulations can put on teachers, principals, and district leaders. “States and school districts work 7.8 million hours each year collecting and disseminating information required under Title I of federal education law,” he said. “Those hours cost more than $235 million. The burden is tremendous, and this is just one of many federal laws weighing down our schools”. Kline underscored the necessity of reevaluating federal education laws that, though well intentioned, ultimately hinder the quality of education and economic growth.

In his opening statement, ranking member George Miller (D-CA) noted that local and state governments should also be held responsible for relieving schools of burdens. Miller also took the opportunity to urge his fellow committee members not to delay reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Miller cited superfluous and burdensome regulations as an indication that the current education law is out of date and in need of revision.

The witnesses seemed to agree that NCLB symbolized an important step for education. NCLB helped facilitate a national conversation on education and put a much-needed emphasis on students and data-collecting. However, all agreed the legislation was inflexible and, in the long run, served as an obstacle to achieving the very goals it set out. In her testimony Haycock spoke of the legislation stating, “while the focus has been clear, its implementation has been far from perfect, and we have learned a lot of lessons along the way about how the federal role should work. Among the most important: excessive controls on how federal dollars are spent at the state and local level are counterproductive”. Nelson added that while each individual requirement might be beneficial, the cumulative effect of so much regulation is singularly negative.

Required data reports were identified as a frustrating and exhausting regulation. With no unified system of data reporting and collection, many schools found excessive redundancies and overlap in the information they were requiredto report. In addition, the amount of paper work, time, and money necessary to comply with mandatory data reporting was overwhelming. In his testimony, Dr. Hatrick used the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an example of the work required to meet just one regulation. In Virginia, schools must collect data for twenty indicators for students with disabilities, which he reported took “613 hours at an estimated cost of $25,000. In other words, 94 instructional days were diverted from instructional support to students in the classroom…and there are 19 other indicators that are as or more complex and costly”. Moreover, the federal government provides very little funding for the amount of work it requires of schools. In the above example, the federal government provides only 9 percent of the total cost of meeting IDEA data collecting requirements. With a myriad of other requirements to meet, schools are exceedingly over burdened.

Committee members who attended the hearing were responsive to the suggestions and complaints of the witnesses and displayed genuine support for an expedient and revised reauthorization of ESEA. To view the webcast of the hearing click here: