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November 20, 2015 - Ramming ESEA/NCLB through in Washington: What You Need to Know

The conference committee appointed to consider the framework for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) wrapped up its business today in a mere 90 minutes, having met for only two days on a bill of epic proportions--a draft of which they had only received a short time earlier. We are working to keep you as informed as possible on this matter, because this bill will impact education in this nation to a profound degree. 

To that end, we've secured a brief update from our good friend Erin Tuttle, an education superactivist in the state of Indiana who has watched ESEA reauthorization matters closely for months and who was monitoring the committee proceedings of the last two days. 


Erin Tuttle's Summary

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--currently in force under its prior reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB)--will be the largest piece of federal education legislation Congress will pass in over a decade.

For that reason, Speaker of the House of Represenatives Paul Ryan should allow the conferenced bill, now titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it. 
In fact, the bill is not scheduled to be made publicly available until November 30th. Thus, a vote should not be scheduled until late January.
Yet, currently, the floor vote is scheduled for December 2. 
Two days is clearly not sufficient. House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read. [Note: To date, neither the public, nor most federal legislators have had any visibility whatsoever into the ESSA conference draft, or framework.]
The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same. In fact, he promised something quite different. If he allows a bill of this magnitude to become law without adequately vetting its merits and faults, it will affirm that the same ills that plagued Congress under Speaker Boehner have remained fully intact. 
While the conference committee hearing consisted mostly of members editorializing about how important it is to pass the bill, we did learn a little about the bill today:
Neither the House version of the bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), nor the Senate version, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), were considered ideal to conservatives. In fact, the SSA barely passed the House amid complaints it didn’t do enough to restore power back to the states. The main incentive for House conservatives to ignore less appealing aspects of SSA and pass it was the inclusion of a provision to allow the portability of Title 1 funds, which many believed important to the School Choice movement. The conference committee proceedings confirmed that Title 1 portability was no longer included in the new bill. [Note: In fact, Resounding Books considers the exclusion of Title I portability a positive development. For reasons we won't go into here, Title I portability is actually a far greater danger than it is a benefit. That said, there are still numerous reasons why this entire reauthorization is dangerous and should simply be scrapped.]
The conference committee proceedings also revealed that the new bill would increase spending by 12 percent over the next five years. Is  this increase appropriate when our country is facing 18 trillion in debt? The federal government has increased spending on education by 300 percent since ESEA was originally passed. Yet, it has nothing to show for all that spending; student test scores have, in fact, remained flat.
We also now know that high-stakes testing mandates are retained in the conference draft. [Note: Based on the speed with which this bill is currently being advanced, the draft may well be at least very close to the final version.]
The new bill is hundreds of pages longer than either prior version.
It contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version.
There is a new competitive grant for pre-schools: Think "Race to the Top for Tots."
It also reportedly contains a lot of complex and unclear language. This means the US Depart of Education (DoED) will have tremendous leeway to interpret it to the advantage of the federal government. Because it has discretion over how to administer the law, unclear language, in fact, makes it far easier for DoED to justify and make decisions to place requirements on the states through its rule-making authority. [Note: Sandra Stotsky is reporting that, based on all evidence, the bill will not relinquish any federal control so much as hide the levers of federal control more effectively.]

Additional Info

You should know that the ONLY committee member to vote no on sending this bill to the floor for a vote was Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Everyone else voted yes, despite the fact that nearly all of them had had a mere two days to read the gargantuan bill, meaning they could not possibly have known everything that was in it.

Broken Promises

On gaining the Speaker's chair in the House, Paul Ryan promised greater transparency and fairness in the legislative process. He promised that legislators would have ample time to read the bills sent to them for consideration. That promise is already being broken, as Erin clearly notes above. 

It's clear that congressional leadership, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the conference committee chairs, would not be withholding this bill this bill from public scrutiny and attempting to rush it through during the holiday season (when the public is often distracted) unless there were things in it that they knew would be exposed by an increasingly aware and engaged citizenry. This is a make or break bill.

Help Us Stop This Train

If you tweet, please help us hold Paul Ryan's feet to the fire on his promises for a better legislative process. He needs to experience a tsunami of public outcry over the way this reauthorization is being handled. In sending your messages, you are welcome to grab any of the images that we've provided at the bottom of this post. The top three were produced be Resounding Books. The last one was created by an amazing and dedicated Florida activist. It's a little taller than the others, so it may cut off in certain social media platforms, but as long as the image can be clicked to be viewed in full, all should be well.

Using any of the images would be helpful to the cause should you choose to use them. Or, feel free to create your own. Tweets with images nearly always have more impact than those without. That said, better a tweet with no image than no tweet at all!

The more you can tweet with the hashtag #StopESEA, the better, but there are others we've mentioned in previous posts that may also be helpful in getting others to notice and tweet with you. For example:

  • #StopNCLB
  • #EndFedEd
  • #StopCommonCore
  • #RefuseTheTest
  • #AboutTheChild
  • #NoESEA

Tell Speaker Ryan...





Tweet to: @SpeakerRyan 
Speaker's Office: (202) 225-3031

One Last Thing...

Please be tweeting and calling your own federal and state legislators on this matter as well. We need them wide awake. Here's some of the information we shared yesterday and the day before, much of which should also help help in communicating with your representatives in Washington and at your state capitol.

Congressional Hotline: (202) 224-3121

True education is everything. Without its restoration, little else will matter.

As always, we're grateful for your engagement, and we look forward to making an impact with you.


QUICK ADDENDUM: That marvelous Florida activist who contributed the fourth image, above, just pointed out a meme to me that I thought was too good not to add to the list. Here you go...

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