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Murray: “Students and parents across the country are looking to us to put politics aside, break through the gridlock, and fix this broken law.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a HELP Committee Executive Session to markup the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, the bipartisan compromise she reached with Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to rewrite the broken No Child Left Behind law. In her remarks, Murray explained that the Every Child Achieves Act is a strong step forward toward fixing the badly broken No Child Left Behind law and making sure every child has the opportunity to get a good education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. 

Murray noted that she looks forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to build on the bipartisan agreement with more ideas and improvements as the bill moves forward.  

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks: 

“We have a long way to go before this bill moves through the Committee, gets debated and passed on the Senate floor, goes to conference with the House bill, and hopefully gets signed into law. And I know there are lots of ways many of us are hoping to continue improving the bill as it continues through the process, but I’m proud that we could reach across the aisle, find common ground, and work on behalf of teachers, schools, and parents who are looking to us to make sure all students have the opportunity to get a quality education.”

“I believe that working through this process in a bipartisan way from the start is the best chance we’ve got at fixing this broken law. The bipartisan compromise that we’ve taken into the Committee—this first step in the long process—gives states and districts more flexibility, while maintaining federal guardrails. And it helps make sure all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.” 

“I’ve been proud to be a voice for Washington state students and priorities as we negotiated this agreement. And if passed into law, this bill will help restore some much-needed certainty to schools and districts in my home state of Washington.”

“…I’ve always said we need to make sure schools and states are accountable for delivering on the promise of a quality education for all kids. Under this agreement, states would create accountability systems, but they would have to meet minimum federal protections... But I think that we should continue to work to strengthen the accountability system under this bill.  For instance, I believe that there should be a stronger assurance from the federal level that struggling schools will get the interventions, supports, and resources they need to serve all of their students.”

“I’m glad that our deal clarifies that funding for various programs can be used for early education.  But I don’t think the Chairman’s mark goes far enough. So I also plan to offer a bipartisan amendment to provide grants to states to build on the programs that already exist. This amendment will allow states to better coordinate their early learning programs, increase quality of these programs, and ensure that more children have access to them. And I am hopeful that it can pass with strong bipartisan support.”

“This isn’t about politics, it’s not about partisanship. It’s about our students—and making sure our country has the policies, tools, and resources in place to help every single one of them succeed. Students and parents across the country are looking to us to put politics aside, break through the gridlock, and fix this broken law. And I am looking forward to working with all of you here to move this one step closer to getting that done.” 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am so pleased that we’ve worked together on this bipartisan compromise.  I truly appreciate you working with me to get us to this strong starting point.

“I want to especially thank you and your staff for all the hard work you’ve put into our bipartisan negotiations. And I want to also thank my Members and their staffs for working with us to bring this forward today.  

“This bill is better as a result of their hard work and their commitment to their priorities and communities. I want to be sure to thank them and all of the members of this Committee for contributing to the strong bipartisan negotiations that have brought us to this critical point.   

“In early February of this year, Chairman Alexander and I agreed to work on a rewrite of this federal education bill, because we both know how important it is to fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law.

“I’ve heard that from students, parents, and teachers across Washington state – and I am sure every member of this Committee has heard about it from their constituents.

“People across the country understand that No Child Left Behind is simply not working—and they are looking to us in Congress to sit down, work together, put politics aside, and get this done.

“So I am glad that the bipartisan agreement that we’ll be discussing today is a strong step in the right direction to finally fix this broken law. It’s not the last step, far from it.

“We have a long way to go before this bill moves through the Committee, gets debated and passed on the Senate floor, goes to conference with the House bill, and hopefully gets signed into law. And I know there are lots of ways many of us are hoping to continue improving the bill as it continues through the process, but I’m proud that we could reach across the aisle, find common ground, and work on behalf of teachers, schools, and parents who are looking to us to make sure all students have the opportunity to get a quality education. 

“And I am so glad that Chairman Alexander and I were able to come into this markup with a strong bipartisan starting place that moves us in the right direction, instead of fighting over dueling partisan approaches. 

“I believe that working through this process in a bipartisan way from the start is the best chance we’ve got at fixing this broken law.

“The bipartisan compromise that we’ve taken into the Committee—this first step in the long process—gives states and districts more flexibility, while maintaining federal guardrails. And it helps make sure all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. 

“I’ve been proud to be a voice for Washington state students and priorities as we negotiated this agreement. And if passed into law, this bill will help restore some much-needed certainty to schools and districts in my home state of Washington.

“I’m glad that over the next couple of days, we’ll be able to work through the markup process to continue improving this bill. I know that many members, including me, have ideas about how to improve and strengthen this bill moving forward. 

“I look forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle at every phase to keep improving the bill. From the beginning of this process, I’ve had a few basic principles to guide my work to fix No Child Left Behind.

“First, I’ve always said we need to make sure schools and states are accountable for delivering on the promise of a quality education for all kids. Under this agreement, states would create accountability systems, but they would have to meet minimum federal protections.

“These protections will ensure that states are accountable to all students, that states set challenging academic standards, and that they disaggregate achievement data – so sub-groups of students, like those from low-income backgrounds, don’t fall through the cracks. 

“These are all very positive steps. But I think that we should continue to work to strengthen the accountability system under this bill.  For instance, I believe that there should be a stronger assurance from the federal level that struggling schools will get the interventions, supports, and resources they need to serve all of their students. 

“From my perspective, leaving these important decisions totally up to states does not provide parents with enough of a guarantee that their children are getting the support they deserve. 

“Another guiding principle of mine is to make sure schools get the resources they need. This bipartisan agreement makes sure that federal resources supplement state and local education funding.

“It also ensures that federal resources target the schools and districts that need them the most – often in areas with high concentrations of poverty. Education is one of the best investments our country can make.  So, I am going to continue to fight to make sure teachers, schools, and districts get the resources they need.

“I’ve also been very focused on expanding access to early childhood education, so more students start kindergarten ready to learn. As a former preschool teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child.

“I’m glad that our deal clarifies that funding for various programs can be used for early education.  But I don’t think the Chairman’s mark goes far enough. So I also plan to offer a bipartisan amendment to provide grants to states to build on the programs that already exist.

“This amendment will allow states to better coordinate their early learning programs, increase quality of these programs, and ensure that more children have access to them. And I am hopeful that it can pass with strong bipartisan support.

“Finally, in our country, we believe all students should have access to a quality public education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. That vision is a big part of what we mean when we talk about America—it’s what makes our country great. 

“Other countries around the world are focused on education.  They are working every day to get it right for their students.  China, India, and others – they think they can beat us in the classroom – but we know better. We know we can win this. And we know we have to.

“So, we can’t afford to turn back the clock on the promise of quality education for all. We can’t be the generation that drops the ball on this noble goal.

“So I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to build on this bipartisan agreement with more ideas and improvements as we move this through Committee, through the Senate, into Conference, and hopefully to the President for him to sign into law. 

“This isn’t about politics, it’s not about partisanship. It’s about our students—and making sure our country has the policies, tools, and resources in place to help every single one of them succeed.

“Students and parents across the country are looking to us to put politics aside, break through the gridlock, and fix this broken law. And I am looking forward to working with all of you here to move this one step closer to getting that done. 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”