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“We Cannot Support the Bill at this Time”

This morning, the National Women’s Law Center joined 20 civil rights organizations, business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, state education officials, and education advocates in stating that, as currently written, we cannot support the Senate HELP Committee’s proposal for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The statement highlights the bill’s lack of accountability measures to narrow achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities, both boys and girls.

In addition, the Center wrote to Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi voicing disapproval of the bill, which “falls seriously short of ensuring that all children have access to a quality education that will prepare them for college and careers.”

Don’t get us wrong. The bill does contain some positive developments. It would increase access to high-quality science and math courses for girls and other students who are underrepresented in STEM fields. It includes dropout factories in its proposed accountability framework. And it takes some small steps to address school climate and improve conditions for learning.

But the Center has major concerns about the bill as a whole in light of its failure to address the barriers that girls of color face in school and their alarming low graduation rates. Hopefully Congress can tackle these and other fundamental flaws in the bill going forward. When it moves forward, that is.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.