News Releases

Murray: “I expect the Department to use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to make sure every student has access to a quality education.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing with Secretary of Education Dr. John King to discuss the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the landmark legislation that replaced the broken No Child Left Behind law. In her remarks, Senator Murray stressed ESSA’s standing as a civil rights law—as echoed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 54 civil rights organizations—and highlighted the law’s accountability systems, reduced emphasis on standardized testing, and new dedicated funding for preschool programs. Murray urged Secretary King to use the Department’s authority, as outlined in the law, to hold schools and states accountable for providing a quality education to all students.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“So, here in Congress, on an issue as important as education and on a law as broken as No Child Left Behind, we were able to work together. We broke through the gridlock. And we passed the Every Student Succeeds Act with strong bipartisan support. Here’s what our law does: the Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more flexibility. But it also includes strong federal guardrails for states as they design their accountability systems. It preserves the Department’s role to implement and enforce the law’s federal requirements. It also reduces reliance on high-stakes testing. And it makes significant new investments to improve and expand access to preschool for our nation’s youngest learners, to name just a few provisions in the law. But reauthorizing this law was not the finish line. It was a starting point for the Department and for schools, districts, and states to begin the hard work of transitioning away from No Child Left Behind and to turn the page.”

 

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is, at its heart, a civil rights law. We know from experience that without strong accountability, kids from low-income neighborhoods, students of color, kids with disabilities, and students learning English too often fall through the cracks. So I expect the Department to use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to make sure every student has access to a quality education. While we were writing this law, we were deliberate on granting the Department the authority to regulate on the law and hold schools and states accountable for education. That includes things such as ensuring states and districts take action every year to improve student achievement in any school that has groups of students who are not achieving academically. And it includes enforcing the state-level cap on the use of simplified alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and ensuring Individual Education Program – or IEP – teams have the tools they need to identify which students with a disability should take this assessment. I will be taking a close look at any guidance or regulations from the Department for school interventions and supports, which will be critical to helping low-performing schools improve.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

 

“I also want to thank John King, our new Secretary of Education, for being here, as well.

 

“Dr. King, as we discussed at your nomination hearing a few weeks ago, this is an important time for the Department of Education.

 

“From expanding access to pre-k for our nation’s youngest learners to helping students and families with growing college costs.

 

“And of course, I know the Department is working hard to implement our new K-12 law.

 

“Last year, I heard from a parent named Duncan Taylor. His son is in school at Highline Public Schools in Washington state.

 

“Duncan is an active member of the PTA. And he volunteers in his son’s school that serves students from diverse backgrounds.

 

“So, he said he saw up close and personal how No Child Left Behind wasn’t working for teachers and students in the classroom. And it wasn’t working for schools or our communities.

 

“So, here in Congress, on an issue as important as education and on a law as broken as No Child Left Behind, we were able to work together.

 

“We broke through the gridlock. And we passed the Every Student Succeeds Act with strong bipartisan support.

 

“Here’s what our law does: the Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more flexibility.

 

“But it also includes strong federal guardrails for states as they design their accountability systems. 

 

“It preserves the Department’s role to implement and enforce the law’s federal requirements. It also reduces reliance on high-stakes testing.

 

“And it makes significant new investments to improve and expand access to preschool for our nation’s youngest learners, to name just a few provisions in the law. 

 

“But reauthorizing this law was not the finish line.

 

“It was a starting point for the Department and for schools, districts, and states to begin the hard work of transitioning away from No Child Left Behind and to turn the page.

 

“While the Department goes through this process – and as states develop new systems and polices – I will be closely monitoring several issues to make sure our law lives up to its intent to provide all students with a high quality education.

 

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is, at its heart, a civil rights law.

 

“We know from experience that without strong accountability, kids from low-income neighborhoods, students of color, kids with disabilities, and students learning English too often fall through the cracks.

 

“So I expect the Department to use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to make sure every student has access to a quality education.

 

“While we were writing this law, we were deliberate on granting the Department the authority to regulate on the law and hold schools and states accountable for education.

 

“That includes things such as ensuring states and districts take action every year to improve student achievement in any school that has groups of students who are not achieving academically.

 

“And it includes enforcing the state-level cap on the use of simplified alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and ensuring Individual Education Program – or IEP – teams have the tools they need to identify which students with a disability should take this assessment.

 

“I will be taking a close look at any guidance or regulations from the Department for school interventions and supports, which will be critical to helping low-performing schools improve.

 

“In March, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 54 civil rights organizations sent a letter to the Department on: the importance of accountability and the authority the Department has to regulate on this and other critical issues.

 

“And I want to underscore what they wrote, particularly about the Department’s vital role to make sure this law, “includes serious protections for vulnerable students, and creates important leverage for parents, communities, and advocates to continue their push for equity and accountability for all students.”

 

“The letter further states that the law is clear:  “The department has the authority and responsibility to issue regulations and guidance, and to provide guidance and technical assistance for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

 

“And finally, I will continue to be very focused on the competitive grant program to expand access to high-quality preschool.

 

“That means the Department of Health and Human Services should work closely with the Department of Education, so more students get the chance to start kindergarten ready to learn. 

 

“It’s up to all of us to uphold the legacy and promise in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

 

“And Dr. King, I’m looking forward to hearing from you on the steps needed to implement the new bipartisan law in a way that will help provide a quality education to every child.

 

“Thank you.”