U.S. Senate ushers in new era in public education with historic vote

From the National  Education Association

ESSAlogo_300pxThe U.S. Senate Wednesday approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as this week.

“Today, the U.S. Senate took a bold and historic step to usher in a new era in public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “This is a deserved victory for public education because the Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure all students have equal opportunity to a high-quality public education regardless of ZIP Code.”

Students and educators have lived with the unintended consequences of the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than 14 years. NEA members have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students in an effort to turn the page on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

“Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms,” said Eskelsen García. “This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new system that includes an ‘opportunity dashboard’ with indicators of school success and student support. Not only does it reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools, but it decouples high-stakes decisions and statewide testing so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — inspire a lifelong love of learning.”

For NEA’s members, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The extraordinary effort to get Congress to rewrite NCLB – an effort which NEA launched in earnest in February with its “Get ESEA Right” national campaign, and peaking this past summer when both legislative chambers passed their respective bills – resulted in a unprecedented bipartisan compromise and eventual bill language in late November. The bill sailed through the U.S. House with a vote of 359 in favor to 64 against.

Leading up to ESSA’s passage, educators mobilized across the nation, using face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, phone calls, petitions, emails and social media to urge Congress to bring the joy of teaching and learning back to the classroom and help close opportunity and resource gaps so that all students have access to a well-rounded education. NEA national leadership, along with state and local affiliate leaders, board members, staff, and educators nationwide, made nearly a half million individual contacts to members of Congress.

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for listening to educators and getting the job done for students,” said Eskelsen García. “We commend Congress for putting students and educators ahead of politics especially in an era of political gridlock. We urge President Barack Obama to swiftly sign the bill into law.”