07.17.15

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Passage of the Every Child Achieves Act,

Today, the Senate has approved 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 educators and administrators by holding students accountable for snap-shot academic progress.  The Senate’s bipartisan action today – an overwhelming vote of approval – is one step forward in the reversal of these troubling measures.  The Every Child Achieves Act further highlights the Federal Government’s crucial responsibility to ensure that students everywhere, across the country, 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 impact 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 Every Child Achieves Act 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 fare more than how well a student can perform on a test on one given day. 

Of course, no bill is perfect, and this one is no different.  I am disappointed that several amendments that would have improved the bill were not adopted.  The Student Non-Discrimination Act, authored and filed as an amendment by Senator Franken, would have taken the important step of ensuring protections for students who face harassment and bullying simply because of their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.  I was proud to cosponsor the amendment, and remain committed to revisiting this important discussion to ensure all children are protected against bullying and discrimination in our schools. It garnered a majority of support in the Senate; it should have been adopted.

In a strong statement of support, the Senate came together in opposition against amendments on portability and private school vouchers, which would have unfairly redistributed Title I funding from our nation’s highest need schools.  I commend Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray for their leadership throughout the debates, and for their tireless dedication to promoting educational reform that serves the needs of all students.  

We have come together, members on both sides of the aisle, to support the Every Child Achieves Act.  Amid the partisan rancor, bipartisanship won the day, and the winners in this debate will be students in Vermont and across the country.  As the House and Senate move to conference, I hope Congress will use this opportunity to promote the many measures included in the Senate’s bill, which reflect the true needs of all students, educators, parents, and administrators. 

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