In an executive order issued immediately after last week’s Inauguration, the President told agencies to halt their regulatory processes. The order instructs agencies not to send any new regulations to the Federal Register for publication. It also delays by 60 days the effective date for all regulations which have been published in the Federal Register in final form, but had not yet taken effect as of the date of the order. This pause is intended to allow incoming federal agency heads time to review those orders for questions of law and policy on which they disagree, and in fact they are urged to further delay or modify regulations which present such question and thus for which further review is merited.
This order will impact at least one set of regulations issued pursuant to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): rules on accountability and State plans. Other ESSA regulations, including those issued on assessments, had an effective date that occurred before the order was issued, and the controversial supplement, not supplant regulations were never issued in final form and so are not subject to this order. Instead of technically taking effect at the end of this month, the accountability regulations will now have an effective date of March 21st unless further delayed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). New regulations issued pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) will also see their effective date pushed back until March 21st.
Still, for practical purposes this pause will not change what States are doing. Despite the fact that regulations had an effective date early this year, their real impact will not be felt until the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Seventeen States and the District of Columbia are planning to submit their State plans to ED in early April, with the rest sending their plans to Washington in early September. For the time being, most States will continue to follow the accountability regulations as issued, but should be aware that the new administration may issue changes to them at any time. Congress may also act to rescind these regulations wholesale under the Congressional Review Act.
Federal agencies have also been told to halt external communications while the transition teams establish ground rules and review press releases and social media strategies. Some, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Nutrition Services (which runs school nutrition programs), and the Environmental Protection Agency, have also been told to stop communications with members of Congress and the press, and employees have been instructed to clear attendance at external functions with senior officials. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) cancelled a webinar on ESSA implementation originally scheduled for this Wednesday, but said that other webinars would go forward as planned, indicating that the agency is not being as restricted in its external communications as others.
Alyson Klein, “Trump White House Hits Pause on Obama’s ESSA Accountability Regulations,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 22, 2017.
Daarel Burnette II, “Trump’s Pause on ESSA Regs Unlikely to Affect State Timelines, Officials Say,” Education Week: Politics K-12, January 24, 2017.