12.08.15

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Conference Report to the Every Student Succeeds Act

Today the Senate will approve landmark legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

Since 2001, the failed policies of No Child Left Behind have unfairly burdened students, families, educators and administrators by holding students accountable for snap-shot academic progress.  The overwhelming support in Congress for these reforms will reverse the one-size-fits-all approach to education that did not work for Vermont and so many schools across the nation.  This bill gives States more flexibility to ensure that schools are supporting every student, while maintaining the Federal Government’s responsibility to ensure that students everywhere have access to the resources they need for lasting academic success.

Since 2001, I have heard from parents, teachers, students, policymakers, and administrators about the negative impacts of No Child Left Behind.  I voted against the legislation, as I did not agree, and still do not agree, with a one-size-fits-all approach to education.  I was also disappointed with the bill’s rigid Federal accountability measures, as I truly believe States and local education agencies deserve flexibility when it comes to how schools operate. 

The conference report we will consider today reflects the positive changes to the law that the Senate overwhelmingly supported in July.  The agreement restores educational flexibility to the states, while safeguarding student access to resources, regardless of race, gender, financial status, and learning level.  I am pleased that the bill takes into account the greater needs of students in rural areas, increases funding for early childhood education programs, and improves school safety measures.  I am especially pleased with the bill’s innovative assessment and accountability demonstration authority provision, which will allow Vermont to adopt competency and performance-based assessments that prove far more than how well a student can perform on a test on one given day.  And while States will design their own system to improve struggling schools, the conference agreement also includes Federal safeguards to protect civil rights and to provide resources for students at the greatest risk. 

We are eight years overdue for a rewrite of No Child Left Behind.  I am pleased that we have come together, members on both sides of the aisle, to support the Every Student Succeeds Act. This bill truly reflects the needs of all students, educators, parents, and administrators, and I urge all Senators to support its passage. 

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