Civil Rights, Business, and Education Groups 'Cannot Support' Senate Education Reform Bill
October 19, 2011 - Posted by Ron Bigler
Voicing concerns about the absence of accountability standards, a broad coalition of civil rights organizations, business groups, and education officials and advocates is withholding support for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2011 that is being considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).
In a joint statement sent to HELP committee members today, the bipartisan group of leaders and advocates say that:
As representatives of the millions of students with disabilities, low-income students, students of color, English-language learners and migrant students who are studying in our nation's schools, both boys and girls, we cannot support the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 at this time. The bill's weak accountability system excludes the vast majority of children we represent, and is a major barrier to our organizations' support.
While the groups note positive measures in the proposed package of reforms, they firmly state that in its current form the bill "goes too far in providing flexibility by marginalizing the focus on the achievement of disadvantaged students."
The full text of the letter with signatories is below and can be downloaded as a PDF here.
As representatives of the millions of students with disabilities, low-income students, students of color, English-language learners and migrant students who are studying in our nation’s schools, both boys and girls, we cannot support the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 at this time. The bill’s weak accountability system excludes the vast majority of children we represent, and is a major barrier to our organizations’ support.
We applaud the inclusion of much-needed reforms on college and career ready standards and assessments; accountability for dropout factories, more equitable funding within districts, a focus on access to high-level STEM courses for underrepresented groups, and improvements in limiting alternate assessments for students with disabilities and recognize the benefits that these provisions could yield for students.
In its current form, however, states would not have to set any measurable achievement and progress targets or even graduation rate goals. They would be required to take action to improve only a small number of low-performing schools. In schools which aren’t among the states’ very worst performing, huge numbers of low-achieving students will slip through the cracks.
Federal funding must be attached to firm, ambitious and unequivocal demands for higher achievement, high school graduation rates and gap closing. We know that states, school districts, and schools needed a more modern and focused law. However, we respectfully believe that the bill goes too far in providing flexibility by marginalizing the focus on the achievement of disadvantaged students.
Although we are unable to support the legislation in its current form, we hope to work with Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi to address our concerns as the process moves forward.”
American Civil Liberties Union
Business Coalition for Student Achievement
Chiefs for Change
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Democrats for Education Reform
The Education Trust
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of United Latin American Citizens
MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund)
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Council of La Raza
National Down Syndrome Society
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
The New Teachers Project
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Southeast Asia Research and Action Center
U.S. Chamber of Commerce