Yesterday, the Senate HELP Committee voted to advance the Every Child Achieves Act out of committee. This bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the major federal K-12 education bill. Although the bill passed out of committee unanimously, several members expressed concern that the bill did not include core civil rights protections for disadvantaged students.
We echo those concerns and hope that if the bill advances to the floor, the Senate adds the following measures to ensure all students have access to a quality education:
- Transparent and meaningful reporting of data that allows schools, families and communities to better target interventions for students who fall into more than one subgroup, like African American girls or other girls of color, girls with disabilities, or students of color with disabilities;
- Necessary guardrails to ensure school districts do not overlook the academic performance of disadvantaged students and to motivate states to intervene when a school district, year after year, fails to close achievement gaps for disadvantaged students;
- Assurances that states will distribute educational resources equitably so that students living in areas of poverty get the resources they need to graduate ready to enter college or a career; and
- Measures that address school climate issues and ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe and supportive environment where they are not subject to constant bullying, harassment, discrimination, or excessive discipline that pushes kids out of school.
Any reauthorization of ESEA must address these fundamental civil rights issues and fulfill the ESEA’s goal of providing access to a quality education for all children—regardless of their families’ zip code or income level. Congress must not abandon its responsibility to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars given to states and school districts are spent in a way that gives all students the opportunity to learn and achieve.