NEA president Lily Eskelsen García welcomes steps to finalize federal education bill

From the NEA

Congressional leaders from both political parties and both legislative chambers announced additional steps Thursday to finalize a bill to replace the federal No Child Left Behind law. Both chambers passed their respective versions to replace NCLB this summer. The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 passed by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House passed the Student Success Act. This is the first time in over 13 years that all key congressional players – Sen. Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray; House Education and the Workforce Committee chair John Kline; and ranking member Bobby Scott – have expressed their commitment to moving to conference and finalizing the education bill.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement:

“We commend the four Senate and House leaders for responding to the calls of educators across the country and swiftly moving the conference process forward. Today’s bipartisan, bicameral announcement gets us closer to finalizing an education law that reaffirms our nation’s commitment to the success of every student regardless of her or his zip code.

“The Every Child Achieves Act is proof that members can and should work across political party lines to enact student-centered policy that will improve public education, especially for those students most in need. We urge Congress to continue to stay the course as the conference negotiations advance. We remain committed to helping move the legislative process forward to improve this already strong legislation in conference, and we will not rest until a final bill has the President’s signature.

“We thank Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, and Representatives John Kline and Bobby Scott for their leadership on this critical education legislation.”

Kippers applauds members for role in helping win Senate passage of Every Child Achieves Act

Kippers_Baldwin_320pxWisconsin educators can be proud of the role they played – along with active educators throughout the nation – in winning U.S. Senate passage Thursday of the Every Child Achieves Act, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said.

“Wisconsin educators can be proud of what we achieved together through union,” Kippers said. “This is a victory for educators across the country. Wisconsin teachers and Education Support Professionals were tireless in their emails, phone calls and office visits to our legislators because we know our students deserve better. We’re one step closer to a final law.”

Kippers worked closely with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin to shape the legislation, keeping up the pressure for federal law that ensures time for learning and opportunities for students.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia recorded this thank you message in gratitude for the hard work NEA members throughout the nation put in for our students:

News release from the NEA:

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.

The bill now will now go to a conference committee.  For the latest legislative updates going forward, visit NEA’s Legislative Action Center and stay active on the Get ESEA Right website.