Civil and Human Rights Groups Oppose Kline ESEA Bill; Support Miller Alternative

Education 07.18,13

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on the “Student Success Act,” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Civil and human rights groups believe the bill introduced by Rep. John Kline, R. Minn., constitutes a “rollback.”

Thirty-five civil and human rights groups sent a letter to the House opposing the bill. The groups say that the bill will eliminate accountability for states and school districts to educate children of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners who have been historically underserved by public schools and will allow federal funds earmarked for these students to be spent elsewhere. The bill is further damaging to students by: failing to address key disparities in opportunity such as access to high-quality college preparatory curricula, restricting the federal government from protecting disadvantaged students, ignoring poor quality tests, and failing to advance the current movement toward college-and career-ready standards.

The letter states:

[T]he bill would thrust us back to an earlier time when states could choose to ignore the needs of children of color, low-income students, ELLs, and students with disabilities. The results, for these groups of students and for our nation as a whole, were devastating. States can do better and the federal government should ensure they do so. Federal funding must be fairly distributed and it must be attached to firm, ambitious, and unequivocal demands for improvements in achievement, high school graduation rates, and gap closing. We know that states, school districts, and schools need a new law. However, the Student Success Act guts hard-won gains in the effort to ensure that all students — especially those who need the most help — get a high-quality education.

ESEA is the nation’s primary federal education law, and provides federal funds to supplement state spending on the public education of low-income students. Civil and human rights groups have long supported the goals of ESEA and have urged Congress to reauthorize and strengthen the law, while maintaining strong accountability for the achievement and graduation of all students and to do more to raise standards, improve schools, and support teachers. While still in full effect, the law hasn’t been updated since 2002 when it was reauthorized as No Child Left Behind.

In a separate letter, The Leadership Conference said the Kline bill “thwarts greater access to an excellent education and does nothing to remediate racial and socioeconomic inequality in our public schools’ and called on the House to support a bill offered by Rep. George Miller that will:

  • require states to adopt Common Core standards;

  • require improvement in both overall performance and closing achievement gaps;

  • set meaningful performance and graduation rate targets;

  • improve school climate by requiring low-achieving schools to reduce their suspension and expulsion rates, and by protecting LGBT students and students with disabilities from bullying and harassment;

  • create greater resource equity by closing the state “comparability loophole,” and requires states to address resource inequities; and

  • ensure that state and local education agencies provide struggling schools the supports and interventions they need to improve.

“The Miller substitute proposes a strong reauthorization that holds states, districts, and schools accountable for student learning while providing the freedom to adopt innovative and effective reforms and interventions to supports the achievement of all students,” the letter states.