I am pleased that the House passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that replaces the flawed policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I voted for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) because reauthorizing the ESEA is the most important action Congress can take to fix the flawed NCLB law. The ESEA technically expired on September 30th of 2007, yet until now Congress had failed to pass a new reauthorization, resulting in devastating impacts on our schools’ ability to succeed.
NCLB placed unreasonable standards on students, teachers, and administrators, and led to award-winning schools being labeled as failing. The consequences of NCLB have been felt directly in Washington state where, since the 2014 loss of a U.S. Department of Education waiver, 88 percent of schools have been deemed to be failing under NCLB standards, even when that is clearly not the case. The new ESSA law ends the need for waivers for states and replaces the one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB’s federal accountability system by shifting authority for academic standards and school accountability back to states and local school districts.
The bipartisan ESSA conference agreement passed by the House includes aspects that are important to our region, including federal dollars to support locally-tailored improvement in the highest-need schools. The bill also authorizes the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program that allocates federal funds based on need, population, as well as school district-identified opportunity gaps in to keep students safe and healthy students, promote well rounded education opportunities such as foreign language and STEM and encourage the effective use of technology in schools. Further, this education legislation improves the Migrant Education Program to prioritize services for migrant students who have dropped out of school. ESSA is a much needed step towards promoting fair and equal access to quality public education and helps reduce disparities between students.
Since it was first enacted in 1965, the ESEA has played a key role in providing equal access to quality public education and helping to reduce educational inequalities. Significant work still remains to ensure that all of our students, regardless of where they live, receive high-quality instruction, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to support students throughout our country.