The Senate bill, passed by a vote of 81-17, offers “a fundamental and positive change of direction for public education,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The soul of the Senate bill maintains the commitment to target funds to public schools educating large populations of disadvantaged students and overhauls NCLB by resetting accountability by eliminating the test-and-punish policies that have narrowed the curriculum but not the achievement gap,” she said.
“By passing the Every Child Achieves Act the Senate did more than just tinker around the edges of federal education policy,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “They also demonstrated what we need more of from our political leaders — putting partisanship aside and collaborating for the public good. By working together and listening to their constituents they’ve produced something truly significant for our kids, their parents and educators,” she said.
Improvements to the bill were added on the Senate floor, including an AFT-backed amendment to establish grants for full-service community schools programs. Other union-backed amendments increase transparency around test preparation policies, require states to establish limits on time spent on assessments, and support materials for English Language Learners (ELLs) and bilingual paraprofessionals.
In part because of a survey on working conditions in teaching co-produced by the AFT and the Badass Teachers Association, senators also approved an amendment designed to increase teacher support and help ease workplace stress.
for our report-back on the survey results.
Equally important, the spirit of bipartisanship preserved many essential features of legislation that were originally crafted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in April. Among the amendments rejected on the floor were efforts to include private school vouchers and to impose Title I “portability,” which would dilute federal dollars targeted at schools serving communities with large concentrations of poverty.
for our report-back on passage of the HELP Committee’s bill.
In the coming weeks, attention will turn to a joint congressional conference responsible for ironing out differences in bills passed by the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. For progress to stay on track, it will be vital for bipartisanship to prevail in that arena.
“We need a law, not just a bill. America’s students, educators and parents are counting on Congress to use the Senate bill as the basis for a law that President Obama will sign,” Weingarten added. “If that is accomplished, the message is that Washington is serious about wanting to help our kids succeed,” she said.
for press reporting on the similarities and differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.