After approval from the United States House of Representatives, the Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act on Wednesday, a federal education bill that would replace No Child Left Behind. President Obama signed the bill Thursday.
The bill, which was introduced on April 30, is described as “an Act to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves.”
The Department of Education presented the bill as one that in addition to providing “federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education,” would also offer “grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for text and library books,” and would create special education centers and scholarships for low-income college students.
This bill, consisting of 1,061 pages, would replace “No Child Left Behind,” which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, and looked to close “achievement gaps” by mandating standardized testing.
ESSA is supposed to repeal annual federal progress reports, replacing them with a individual statewide accountability system that prohibits federal interference.
At the state level, ESSA will still require statewide assessments in reading and math for students in the 3rd to the 8th grades and once in high school, along with science tests given three times between the 3rd and the 12th grade.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Dec. 2, Republican Georgia State Sen. William Ligon questioned “why we need a 1061-page federal bill dealing with education policy.”
[pull_quote_center]I have been told by a member of our congressional delegation that bill’s length was needed to repeal many existing federal laws dealing with education. Unfortunately, a review of the bill reveals not much in the way of repeal but that once again the federal government is driving education policy in every State in the Union through grants and waivers.[/pull_quote_center]
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the bill, calling it “another bipartisan achievement for our country.”
While he did not vote on Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) released a statement saying that he does not support the bill.
Cruz said the bill “unfortunately continues to propagate the large and ever-growing role of the federal government in our education system,” which is the “same federal government that sold us failed top-down standards like Common Core.”
[pull_quote_center]We should be empowering parents and local school districts instead of perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our nation’s children. In many ways, the conference report was worse than the original Senate bill—removing the few good provisions from the House bill that would have allowed some Title I portability for low-income students as well as a parental opt-out from onerous federal accountability standards.[/pull_quote_center]
Presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also did not vote on the bill. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against it.