News Releases

Murray Supports Education Reform Bill Despite Some Concerns

Dec 11 2001

Cites Congress' on-going responsibility to monitor how the bill impacts students

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) signaled her support for education reform, while expressing her ongoing concerns about the funding, testing, and accountability provisions in the bill now moving through Congress. Murray indicated her support for the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act at a meeting of the House and Senate Education Conference Committee, of which she is a member.

Murray, a former educator and local school board president, has worked on the legislation for more than three years as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She used her first-hand experience as an educator, school board member and parent to improve the legislation by offering amendments both in committee and on the Senate floor.

Murray led the fight to ensure funding is available to hire and train teachers to help schools make classrooms less crowded. She also worked to guarantee education for homeless students and to strengthen the Safe and Drug Free Schools program. Throughout the process, Murray has called for increased funding to help states and localities meet the bill's new mandates. She has warned that the new testing regime must be used as a tool to focus on areas that need improvement and not as a way to punish students or to label schools as failures.

Senator Murray's statement follows:

"Since 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has helped students learn in schools that are more fair, more equal and more effective than ever before. As schools face new and growing challenges, we must update our federal education laws to help all students can reach their full potential. With the help of educators and parents, our schools are working harder than ever. While I do not agree with everything in this bill, I believe Congress must move forward and be part of the solution by providing the support communities need.

Throughout this process, five principles have guided my consideration. First, I believe we've got to invest in the things we know work. Second, we've got to protect disadvantaged students and make sure they get the extra help and support they need. Third, we've got to make sure that public, taxpayer dollars stay in public schools. Fourth, we've got to help meet our national education goals, and finally, we've got to set high standards and provide the resources so all students can meet them. On balance, I believe this bill meets my principles.

This is a clear, bipartisan win for education reform, and I'm proud that as we move forward, we've left behind some of the most troubling proposals from vouchers to Straight A's. We've certainly come a long way since the days when the Republican Party tried to eliminate the Department of Education.

This bill sets high standards for all children and provides flexible federal support that focuses on the things that we know work, including: smaller classes, high quality teachers, after school programs, technology and technology training for teachers, support for students with limited English proficiency, a strong Safe and Drug Free Schools program, guarantees of quality education for homeless kids, and more targeting of resources to disadvantaged students.

While I support the bill overall, I continue to have significant concerns about some of the mandates in this bill, and I believe that Congress must closely monitor how the bill impacts students.

My top concern is the funding for this bill. While we have made progress in securing $4 billion more than the President's budget, I fear that the funding level is still short of what communities will need to carry out this bill's mandates. We still must fully fund special education next year. Almost every member of the conference committee has expressed a commitment to fulfilling the promise of full funding when IDEA is reauthorized. Keeping that commitment is critical to the success of this education reform bill.

I remain concerned about how the new tests will be used and about the federal government setting the formulas and guidelines to measure student progress. These additional mandates come at a time when most of our states are facing budget crises. We've got to make sure that these mandates don't end up holding our children back. That's why Congress must closely monitor how the bill is implemented. If this bill leads to more crowded classrooms, fewer high-quality teachers, or a focus on testing instead of on learning, then we must be willing to revisit these mandates.

On balance, this bill takes important steps forward to improve our public schools, and while I'm not pleased with every provision, I don't want the federal government to miss this opportunity to help schools throughout the country make progress."