Yesterday the Senate passed their version of ESEA. I’m having a rough week here personally, as Kevin was hospitalized for two days. So I’ve not been totally on top of what is happening. But, in the few moments I’ve had to view email and Facebook, I don’t think that I am 100% happy with this bill. As I’ve said before, I certainly can think for myself and form my own opinions. However, when politicians or non-profits that I like and support don’t support something, that raises red flags for me. Sure, I disagree with some groups that I love…but it gives me pause to read and research further.
So, both Elizabeth Warren and COPAA do not like this bill. Like I said, that gives me pause to say, “Hmmm, need to read more….” Here is both Elizabeth Warren’s comments on ESEA as well as the email I received from COPAA.
Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook comments about ESEA:
The first version of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act was a landmark Civil Rights law. In the 1960s, the American people, through the federal government, committed to improving educational opportunity for children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities, and other groups of kids who had been underserved, mistreated, or outright ignored by public schools. The bill that the Senate passed today does not live up to that powerful legacy.
In many ways, this bill represents a significant improvement from No Child Left Behind, moving away from rigid standardized tests and respecting the vital work that our teachers do every day–and I strongly support those changes. But this bill is also about money, and it eliminates basic, fundamental safeguards to ensure that federal dollars are actually used to improve both schools and educational outcomes for those students who are often ignored.
I supported this bill in the Education Committee on the promise that it would improve, but over the past two weeks, Republicans have blocked every attempt to establish even minimum safeguards to ensure that money would be used effectively. I am deeply concerned that billions in taxpayer dollars will not actually reach those schools and students who need them the most, and I cannot support this legislation until this critical issue is meaningfully addressed.
The email I received from COPAA:
Today the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, S.1177 with a vote of 82-17. COPAA, along with many of our disability, civil rights and business colleagues refused to support the final passage. Originally passed in 1965 on the heels of significant civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ESEA is clearly a civil rights law. Although the bill that passed includes some important priorities of the civil rights community, it fails to meaningfully protect and advance civil rights and achievement for the students the Elementary and Secondary Education Act intended to protect.
The civil rights community has long recognized equal educational opportunity as central to our struggle to achieve equality for all Americans. Whether African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American students, students with disabilities, those who speak English as a second language, or those from low-income families—the struggle for access to a quality education and the resulting economic and political liberty has meant considerable sacrifice and very hard fought victories. The bill passed by the Senate does not sufficiently advance that cause or keep the commitment of the original ESEA to help the students most in need of support and instruction to achieve, and we are concerned with its passage.
We appreciate the hard work of Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and their staffs. We also thank those Senators who have taken the lead on amendments to address our concerns about this bill and the many Senators who have voted for these amendments. We also applaud the inclusion of important policies in the underlying bill. The Every Child Achieves Act, S.1177, importantly maintains the requirement for college or career aligned state standards, statewide annual assessment, disaggregated student achievement (including the 1 percent cap on using alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards to assess students with the most significant disabilities and limiting the exemption of English learners from the accountability system to 1 year), and goals for achievement and high school graduation. The bill also adds additional important data related to access to critical educational resources, including per-pupil expenditures. If adopted, the amendment including data transparency across and not just within student groups would be a positive development. These tools provide invaluable information to parents, communities, educators, advocates, and policymakers to help ensure that all students have an equitable and excellent education. The value of this reporting and the benefit of the other important policies in the underlying bill, however, are greatly curtailed by the absence of meaningful accountability.
Although this debate has been framed in terms of “flexibility,” “local control,” and the frustrations of state and local systems pushing back on the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, these are distractions from the core issue at the center of this law—to provide quality educational opportunities for all of America’s students. The federal role that the civil rights community supports is the role outlined in 1965’s original ESEA—to ensure that states do the right thing by all students. For students and their families, access to a quality education is now, more than ever, the difference between economic self-sufficiency and the confines of poverty. Whether or not a child can read and do grade-level math, graduates from high school on time with a regular diploma, and is prepared for success in college and career has consequences for generations.
Without a clear expectation of action, Every Child Achieves Act does not yet meet that test.
With ECAA approved by the Senate and H.R. 5, the Student Success Act approved by the House, both bodies must now come together to iron out the differences between their bills and come up with a single product. The conference committee, which will be comprised of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN)and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and a group of bipartisan, bicameral members yet to be chosen, could last months as all sides work to produce a bill suitable for President Obama to sign.
As this bill advances to conference committee it is critical that provisions championed by Senators Murray, Murphy, Booker, Coons and Warren to address the above necessary accountability measures are included in any bill brought back to the Senate. The bill’s lack of these strengthened provisions risk undermining both ESEA’s historical goal to promote the academic achievement of our students most in need of support and Congress’ clear goal of college and career-ready graduation. We will continue to work towards a to finalized reauthorization an ESEA that provides guardrails to assure that every student can be on the path toward high levels of achievement, post-secondary success, employment and independence as tax-paying citizens in our society.
- Joint Statement with COPAA, The Business Roundtable, Education Trust, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Leadership Conference, Democrats for Education Reform, National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Council of La Raza