Head of nation's largest teachers union comments on passage of H.R. 5

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, July 26, 2013

Members of the House of Representatives today passed the “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The measure passed 221–207, with no Democratic votes in support and 12 Republicans voting no on final passage. The National Education Association (NEA), which represents more than 3 million public school educators, opposed the bill in committee and raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, a 23-year high school math teacher who leads the nation’s largest teachers union:

“While H.R. 5 contains some positive provisions, as a whole it erodes the historical federal role in public education—to be an enforcer of equity of opportunities, tools and resources so that we can level the playing field. Yet this House bill walks away from creating equity in education—and at a time when poor and disadvantage students and their families need it the most.

“The original purpose of ESEA was to help raise achievement and close gaps in student learning. Educators and parents across the country have been sounding the alarm that the law isn’t working as intended and its overreliance on test scores to label and punish students and schools is not acceptable. Reauthorization of the law presents an opportunity to get it right and really help all of America’s students.

“Members from both sides of the aisle agreed that multiple measures must be used to identify academic performance instead of one-size-fits-all standardized assessments. However, passage this morning of the Cantor amendment to dilute the purpose of the Title I program by introducing ‘portability’ makes the bill even worse, harming students, communities, and undermining the public schools that enroll nine out of 10 American children.

“The future of our students will depend on investing in classroom priorities widely recognized as essential to sustained effectiveness, such as quality early childhood learning, smaller class sizes particularly in the early grades, additional learning time, and increased and sustainable funding for public schools. We need to put students at the center of education reform and we need federal legislation that seeks to partner with and support state efforts in meaningful reform, not undermine those efforts. 

“As we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, we must work to ensure equity in education. Congress must be willing to make the appropriate investments in order to ensure NCLB lives up to its original goals. That’s why NEA members are urging lawmakers to craft fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 legislation that brings about sustainable positive change for all our students.”

More information is available online at nea.org/esea

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The National Education Association (www.nea.org) is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.