114th Congress’ Education Priorities Must Provide Equitable Opportunities for Students

A young girl sits with a school workbook

Image by Girl Child Education, Flickr

January 06, 2015

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.

Erin Prangley By:   |   January 06, 2015

2 Comments

  1. Edith Isidoro-Mills says:

    What are we going to do about this insane obsession with testing and preparing children to take standardized tests at the expense of of music, art, and vocational training. I always associate “No Child Left Behind” with this insanity. Could you enlighten us on this aspect and what AAUW’s stand regarding dropping music, art, and vocational training is?

  2. I am perplexed by your support for high-stakes testing. Here is a copy of my comment posted to Education Post, a pro school reform propaganda website.

    Test-based “accountability” is not pro civil rights. It is the opposite. We provide federal funding to underprivileged schools and students because it is the right thing to do. By doing so, we are simply providing a reasonably equal opportunity at getting a good education. In many cases these funds don’t even come close to equalizing spending between affluent and truly needy districts.

    Demanding “results” for this investment, implies that we haven’t seen any, and has been used as an argument to eliminate Title I funding since the Nixon administration. The truth is, much narrowing of the achievement gap took place from the 1950’s to about 1988. No significant progress has been made since. Simply continuing to spend money on compensatory programs under Title I will not likely close gaps any further. However, cutting funding could return us to 1965 levels. Unfortunately, poverty has not proved to be a temporary problem, and its effects continue to take a huge toll on academic achievement.

    Threatening poor schools and students with a loss of funding if they don’t magically achieve as well as their affluent peers is a step backward for civil rights, no matter you spin it.

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