NEA President Reacts to Historic ESEA Vote

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Lily Eskelsen García optimistic, sees great strides in closing opportunity gaps for students

www.nea.org

National Education Association

Congress must act swiftly to reconcile the House and Senate legislation and get a bill to the President’s desk.

Today, an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority of the United States Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, a critical and historic first step toward ensuring that every child, regardless of zip code, has the support, tools, and time to learn.

“Every student in America will be better off under this legislation than the generation of students wronged by ‘No Child Left Untested’,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “Educators enter their schoolhouses every morning with one desire foremost in their minds: that every student they encounter that day will know an educator cares for them and is dedicated to reaching, teaching, and inspiring them to reach their full potential. The unmitigated failure of the test and punish culture shackled educators, and we are now one step closer to ending that woeful chapter in American education policy.”

“The Every Child Achieves Act takes a significant step towards fulfilling the original goal of ESEA: to provide more opportunity for all students, but especially those most in need,” Eskelsen García continued. “This bill reflects a paradigm shift away from the one-size-fits-all assessments that educators know hurt students, diminish learning, and narrow the curriculum and that they fought to change. Now, Congress must act swiftly to reconcile the House and Senate legislation and get a bill to the President’s desk. Educators across the country have watched every floor speech, counted along with every vote and made their voices heard with a staggering volume of outreach to elected leaders. Those same educators will not rest until a final bill has the President’s signature. We thank Senators Alexander and Murray for their leadership on this critical legislation.”

During the weeks leading up to today’s historic vote, NEA’s nearly 3 million educators engaged in unprecedented advocacy and activism on behalf of America’s students. NEA national leadership, along with state and local affiliate leaders, board members, staff, and educators nationwide, made nearly half a million individual contacts to members of Congress, including:

  •     Nearly 2,000 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress and key staff
  •     216,000 emails
  •     32,000 tweets
  •     15,000 phone calls
  •     25,550 petition signatures

This flood of member activism led to several key victories for students and significant improvements to the Every Child Achieves Act. One of the most important shifts educators fought to include in the underlying bill was the “opportunity dashboard,” a measure that will help ensure resource equity and opportunity for every student. For the first time, the Senate bill would require states to include at least one measure of student and school supports within their accountability system, such as access to higher level coursework, arts and music classes, school counselors or school librarians. The bill would require separation of this information by student subgroups and would help states identify and work to close opportunity gaps.

Further, a bi-partisan group of Senators voted to expand the dashboard measures beyond the already strong provisions contained within the Every Child Achieves Act as part of an amendment. While the vote fell short of the required 60 votes, the level of bi-partisan co-operation sends a strong message to potential conferees that a burning desire exists to ensure every child is more than a test score. Eskelsen García thanked the sponsors of the Opportunity Dashboard of Resources Amendment:

“As educators, we are deeply committed to the success of every student,” Eskelsen García said. “By leading on the bi-partisan Opportunity Dashboard of Core Resources Amendment, Senators Kirk, Reed, Baldwin, and Brown show that they stand with us in that commitment.”

Additionally, Senators from both sides of the aisle voted with the recommendations of educators and rejected an amendment to closely replicate the failed NCLB-era approach of over identifying the number of schools in need of intervention. The Senate also rejected private school vouchers multiple times with nine GOP Senators joining Democrats in opposition to at least one of the amendments. Senators also rejected block granting federal funding that would erode its historic role in helping to target resources to students most in need, with nine GOP Senators joining Democrats in opposition.

While Congress is much closer to sending a law that commits America to the success of every student, the work of NEA is not done. We call on Senate and House leaders to quickly name conferees for the committee that will negotiate differences and present a bill to both chambers. Educators will continue their dogged advocacy to ensure that this already strong legislation is further improved in conference, and elected leaders should ensure such action is taken swiftly and deliberately. NEA’s goal is to proudly support a bill that, when signed by the President, gives every student, regardless of zip code, the support, tools, and time to learn.

Follow NEA on Twitter at @NEAmedia

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at http://www.nea.org.

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Richard Allen Smith
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