U.S. Senate ushers in new era in public education with historic vote

DENVER – The U.S. Senate today approved S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as this week.

“The passage of ESSA is a victory for students and educators and I am thankful Congress took action. However, the real work lies ahead,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “CEA looks forward to working with our membership and other stakeholders and policy makers on the law’s implementation in our state. Just as CEA led the implementation and training efforts around Colorado’s educator effectiveness evaluation system, we will raise the voice of professional educators to deliver on ESSA’s promise to provide opportunity for all students.”

Students and educators have lived with the consequences of the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than 14 years. CEA members have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of Colorado students in an effort to turn the page on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.

“Educators will have a greater voice in the decisions that affect their students and classrooms,” Dallman said. “This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students and ends the one-size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind. Not only does it reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools, but it decouples high-stakes decisions and statewide testing so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — inspire a lifelong love of learning.”

For CEA members, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The extraordinary effort to get Congress to rewrite NCLB resulted in a unprecedented bipartisan and bicameral compromise and eventual bill language in late November. The bill sailed through the U.S. House with a vote of 359 in favor to 64 against.

Leading up to ESSA’s passage, educators mobilized in Colorado and across the nation, using face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, phone calls, petitions, emails and social media to urge Congress to bring the joy of teaching and learning back to the classroom and help close opportunity and resource gaps so that all students have access to a well-rounded education. Educators nationwide made nearly a half million individual contacts to members of Congress.

“Today, the U.S. Senate took a bold and historic step to usher in a new era in public education,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “This is a deserved victory for public education because the Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure all students have equal opportunity to a high-quality public education regardless of ZIP Code.”