114th Congress’ Education Priorities Must Provide Equitable Opportunities for Students
January 8, 2015, marks the 13th anniversary of the last time the U.S. Congress and the president could agree on the nation’s education priorities. In fact, because they have not been able to agree since then, the bill signed in 2002, called No Child Left Behind, expired eight years ago but continues to be the law of the land without changes to reflect current education priorities.
There are new reports that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the new chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, wants to pass a bill out of his committee by the end of February that would reauthorize No Child Left Behind, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). There is little doubt he is working closely with Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, to see if they can find a way to put a bill before the president this year.
But reauthorizing the ESEA will only succeed if Congress can show support for education policies that provide equitable opportunities for all students, and, unfortunately, we’ve already heard reports that the new legislation might roll back important civil rights gains by including private school vouchers and weakening current accountability measures. We also have no guarantee that new legislation would continue current programs, such as the Women’s Educational Equity Act, that serve girls’ special needs.
AAUW has called for reauthorization of the ESEA since it expired in 2007, and we need to make sure that this new Congress is committed to ensuring strong academic principles and to closing the achievement gap for all children — objectives at the heart of ESEA. We also must insist on adequate funding for education priorities. The federal government has a critical role to play in attaining these goals, and AAUW endorses the use of a robust accountability system that helps ensure all children are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.