On Monday, March 13, the U.S. Department of Education submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a draft Template for States to use when submitting consolidated ESSA state plans to the Department for approval. Unlike the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which strongly emphasizes meaningful consultation and stakeholder engagement by federal, state and local education agencies, the new Template eliminates almost all references to it. Since its release in March, the consolidated state plan has been open for public comment - even though states have continued to submit plans to the Department for consideration and approval.
NSBA has expressed concern over the Department's Template since its release in March. As previously reported, the Consolidated State Plan Template issued by the Department essentially disregards ESSA's meaningful consultation provisions-by not requiring states to demonstrate how meaningful consultation occurred. The Template does not focus on meaningful consultation with stakeholders or include criteria whereby a state must demonstrate the extent to which stakeholders, such as local school board members were included in the development of the State Plan, as previously recommended by NSBA.
NSBA championed meaningful consultation in ESSA by securing a provision requiring the Secretary of Education to engage stakeholders throughout the regulatory and nonregulatory process (Sec. 8541). NSBA called the new Template an "abrogation of the law's intent" in a joint statement with AASA and joined several organizations in submitting a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, urging leaders to require a threshold demonstration of meaningful consultation with stakeholders and focus on continued engagement throughout the initial implementation process. NSBA filed a public comment in response to the Template, again expressing concern over jettisoned stakeholder consultation requirements.
It is not clear how the Department will proceed in evaluating public feedback or making changes to the Consolidated State Plan Template. To date, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted plans to the Department to review. The Department is moving forward and the peer review process is underway.