News Releases

In speech, Murray highlights her commitment to enhancing civil rights through education, reforming the criminal justice system, and expanding economic opportunity
Murray: “Equality never happens by accident. It’s something we have to work for, and foster, and defend in the hearts of Americans.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on improving opportunities for African American students. In her remarks, Murray discussed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the bipartisan legislation she worked on to rewrite No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law by President Obama today. Murray noted that ESSA includes key provisions to ensure all students have access to a quality education including strong accountability measures, helping schools and states address harmful disciplinary practices, shining a light on resource equity, and expanding access to preschool.

Murray also discussed her commitment to enhancing civil rights by reforming the criminal justice system and expanding economic opportunity to all Americans.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“We’ve been working for about a year now to reauthorize that law. And throughout the process, I’ve fought, along with my colleagues, to preserve the law’s civil rights legacy – to make sure all students have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. You can see that in the progress we made on holding schools and states accountable for educating every student. And you can see that in the progress we made to help shine a light on discriminatory disciplinary policies that are too often aimed at students of color.”

 

“I’ll start with accountability. I give Ranking Member Bobby Scott a lot of credit for helping forge a compromise on such an important issue. The fact is, we know what happens when we don’t hold our schools and states accountable for educating all students. Invariably, it’s the kids from poor neighborhoods, kids of color, kids who are learning English, and kids with disabilities who too often fall through the cracks. Our bill will make sure that schools work to close achievement gaps that too often affect these students. And for schools that struggle the most to help students succeed, and for high schools where more than a third of their students fail to earn their diploma, our bill will ensure they take steps to improve.”

 

“In our bill, for the first time, we will require every state, every district, and every school to report and publish which students are suspended and expelled. We also require schools, districts, and states to report when students are referred to law enforcement and when they make school-related arrests. This will shine a light on the data that parents, teachers, schools, and local leaders like all of you here today need to help break down the school-to-prison pipeline. And, for an added step, states and districts will have to detail how they plan to reduce the kinds of disciplinary tactics that take students out of the classroom as a condition of receiving Title I funding.”

 

“For the first time, our nation’s primary education law will include dedicated funding for preschool. This is especially important for students from low-income backgrounds…The Every Student Succeeds Act establishes a competitive grant program for states that propose to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for kids from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.”

 

“I want you to know I’ve also been working to help make our criminal justice system more fair. We need to end racial profiling by law enforcement at all levels. That’s why I support the bill put forward by Congressman Conyers and Senator Cardin as a smart first step. Police officers are so important to our communities and help keep our families safe.  Racial profiling only serves to destroy the essential trust and cooperation between law enforcement and communities.  We also must reform our system of justice by changing mandatory minimum sentencing practices, the three-strikes policy, and putting an end to solitary confinement for juveniles. And once someone has paid their debt to society, these individuals should be able to re-enter the community and earn an honest living.  That’s why we need to ban the box, so more people, who have turned their lives, around get a fair shot at employment.”

 

“The President signed our education bill into law today, but that’s not the end of our work to help all kids get an equal opportunity at a good education.  We have to continue to hold schools, and districts, and states accountable for educating each and every child and advocate for equality. We have to continue looking at the resources our students have access to and press for changes that will help them graduate, ready to create and take on the jobs of the 21st century. We have to continue to take a hard look at ourselves – our education and justice systems, our government, and our society – and together, we will not rest until the door of opportunity is open to all Americans. We’ve taken a good step forward today. And with your continued focus on equality in education, it won’t be the last step we take together.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Cheryl, for that introduction.

 

“I also want to recognize all of the members of the Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP from my home state of Washington who made the trip to be here today. It’s great to be here with you all.

 

“The topic you’ve been focused on for this conference – equality in education – couldn’t be more important – and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

 

“Just today, as you know, President Obama signed into law our legislation to finally fix No Child Left Behind in a way that helps ensure all students get access to a good education.

 

“I want to recognize the members who helped us get our bill – the Every Student Succeeds Act – over the finish line: Ranking Member of the House Ed and Workforce Committee Bobby Scott, as well as Chairman John Kline, and Chairman Lamar Alexander.

 

“I am so glad the four of us were able to put partisanship aside and work together on our bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – or ESEA.

 

“It’s been 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson first signed ESEA into law. When he was younger, President Johnson took a year off from college to teach school in a small border town in Texas.  Every student at his school was Mexican-American and came from a low-income background.

 

“The school didn’t have a school bus. And President Johnson remembered using his first paycheck to buy volleyballs and softball bats so the kids could have playground equipment. 

 

“He said he’d never forget the faces of the boys and girls at that school, knowing they likely wouldn’t go to college because they were simply too poor.

 

“President Johnson said that was the moment he realized that, ‘this Nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.’

 

“Of course, our nation had always held the ideal of education for all – but in 1965, ESEA put that ideal into action.

 

“It aimed to close the education gaps between rich and poor, black and white, kids from rural areas and kids from big cities, and in doing so, ESEA took a step forward for civil rights.

 

“We’ve been working for about a year now to reauthorize that law. And throughout the process, I’ve fought, along with my colleagues, to preserve the law’s civil rights legacy – to make sure all students have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

 

“You can see that in the progress we made on holding schools and states accountable for educating every student. And you can see that in the progress we made to help shine a light on discriminatory disciplinary policies that are too often aimed at students of color.

 

“I’ll start with accountability. I give Ranking Member Bobby Scott a lot of credit for helping forge a compromise on such an important issue.

 

“The fact is, we know what happens when we don’t hold our schools and states accountable for educating all students.

 

“Invariably, it’s the kids from poor neighborhoods, kids of color, kids who are learning English,  and kids with disabilities who too often fall through the cracks.

 

“Our bill will make sure that schools work to close achievement gaps that too often affect these students.

 

“And for schools that struggle the most to help students succeed, and for high schools where more than a third of their students fail to earn their diploma, our bill will ensure they take steps to improve.

 

“In the 1800s, Horace Mann, who’s often called the Father of American education, worked to make it universal and free for all. He famously said, ‘education is the great equalizer.’

 

“And I agree – but only if we commit ourselves to providing each and every child with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.

 

“As I mentioned, our bill also makes progress on harmful disciplinary tactics that rob students of their chance to learn.

 

“Back in June, the Seattle Times had a story about this very issue.  The reporter wrote about an African-American student named Malik.  The first time Malik was suspended, he was in the third grade. Then came missed field trips and more suspensions. And last year, he was expelled from school.

 

“Malik told the Seattle Times reporter that after a while, he started to dread going to school.

 

“He said, ‘It just felt like nobody wanted me there.’

 

“Last year, in Washington state, 10 percent of all students who were removed from the classroom were African American – even though these students make up less than five percent of the student population. And this trend tracks with what is happening across the country.

 

“In our bill, for the first time, we will require every state, every district, and every school to report and publish which students are suspended and expelled.

 

“We also require schools, districts, and states to report when students are referred to law enforcement and when they make school-related arrests.

 

“This will shine a light on the data that parents, teachers, schools, and local leaders like all of you here today need to help break down the school-to-prison pipeline.

 

“And, for an added step, states and districts will have to detail how they plan to reduce the kinds of disciplinary tactics that take students out of the classroom as a condition of receiving Title I funding.

 

“And if school districts need extra help in making that a reality, our bill provides new funding so they can follow through on that goal.

 

“There are several other ways our bill will expand educational opportunities for more students.

 

“For the first time, our nation’s primary education law will include dedicated funding for preschool. This is especially important for students from low-income backgrounds.

 

“By the time an average child growing up in poverty turns three-years-old, she will have heard 30 million fewer words, compared to a child from a middle- or high-income family, according to researchers at the University of Kansas. 

 

“That’s a serious disadvantage.

 

“By the time she starts kindergarten, the deck will already be stacked against her and her future success.

 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act establishes a competitive grant program for states that propose to improve coordination, quality, and access to early childhood education for kids from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

“Our bill will also help shine a light on resource inequalities in school. These are resources like offering AP classes, how much funding districts spend on each student, access to preschool and many more.

 

“I know this has been a topic of discussion for you all here today.

“Across the country, the students in some schools simply don’t have the same opportunity to graduate college-and-career ready like other students do.  In fact, one out of five African-American high schoolers attend a school that doesn’t even offer a single AP course.

 

“So our bill will require all schools to report on these issues to help shine a light on resource inequality.  And in schools that are struggling, our bill will require school districts to do something to remedy these inequities.

 

“As important as this new law is – for education and for civil rights – this alone is not enough to guarantee all families have the opportunities to succeed here in our country.

 

“In 1965, ESEA wasn’t a standalone effort. It was a part of a movement. It came along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and many, many more then and in the decades since.

 

“Just like in the 1960s, we need a larger movement now to make sure the promise of justice and equality shines through not just our education system, but our justice system, our economy, and our country.

 

“I want you to know I’ve also been working to help make our criminal justice system more fair.

 

“We need to end racial profiling by law enforcement at all levels. That’s why I support the bill put forward by Congressman Conyers and Senator Cardin as a smart first step.

 

“Police officers are so important to our communities and help keep our families safe.  Racial profiling only serves to destroy the essential trust and cooperation between law enforcement and communities.

 

“We also must reform our system of justice by changing mandatory minimum sentencing practices, the three-strikes policy, and putting an end to solitary confinement for juveniles. And once someone has paid their debt to society, these individuals should be able to re-enter the community and earn an honest living.

 

“That’s why we need to ban the box, so more people, who have turned their lives, around get a fair shot at employment.

 

“Those are a just a few of the steps we absolutely need to take – and take soon – to help ensure our system actually provides justice and equality for all.

 

“And we as a country also need to make sure our economy works for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few.

 

“In today’s economy, too many workers across the country are underpaid, overworked, and treated unfairly.

 

“When workers lack economic security, when they aren’t treated fairly,they can’t invest in themselves and their children or move their families into a secure middle-class life.

 

“I believe we have to address this challenge on multiple fronts. And I’ve been proud to partner with Congressman Scott on several of these priorities.

 

“We need to increase people’s incomes that for too long have stayed stagnant.

 

“We should make sure women get equal pay for equal work – which right now disproportionately hurts women of color.  I was glad to see the California Chamber of Commerce endorsed bipartisan equal pay legislation in their state.

 

“And I hope we can build off of those kinds of efforts in other states and in Congress.

 

“And we should make it a little easier for working families to earn a paycheck and raise a family.

 

“That’s how we can expand economic opportunities to more Americans – so they get a shot at success in our country.  And really – giving more people in our country the chance live out the American dream is why you all are here today. 

 

“Equality never happens by accident. It’s something we have to work for, and foster, and defend in the hearts of Americans. And that work continues with all of you here today.

 

“The President signed our education bill into law today, but that’s not the end of our work to help all kids get an equal opportunity at a good education.

 

“We have to continue to hold schools, and districts, and states accountable for educating each and every child and advocate for equality.

 

“We have to continue looking at the resources our students have access to and press for changes that will help them graduate, ready to create and take on the jobs of the 21st century.

 

“We have to continue to take a hard look at ourselves – our education and justice systems, our government, and our society – and together, we will not rest until the door of opportunity is open to all Americans.

 

“We’ve taken a good step forward today. And with your continued focus on equality in education, it won’t be the last step we take together.

 

“Thank you.”