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Murray delivers remarks as Senate considers legislation to fix No Child Left Behind.

Murray: “We have the chance to send the Every Student Succeeds Act to the President’s desk to help ensure all kids have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.”

*VIDEO HERE*

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee delivered remarks on the Senate floor as debate began on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the bipartisan legislation she worked on to fix No Child Left Behind. In her remarks, Murray highlighted that ESSA takes major strides in ensuring strong federal guardrails for accountability, shining a light on resource inequities, reducing reliance on high-stakes testing, and increasing access to preschool. Murray noted that the bill represents an important step forward, as it broke through the gridlock and dysfunction that has become too common in Congress. Murray also explained that as the legislative process for ESSA comes to an end, she is going to be focused on ensuring the legislation is implemented effectively, and building on this progress to ensure the government is doing everything possible to help students in Washington state and across the country.

 

Today, the Senate cleared a critical procedural hurdle with a strong bipartisan vote of 84-12 that set the bill up for final passage, which is expected to come tomorrow morning. The bill will then be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“I said back in January, and I’ll repeat, that true accountability means holding our schools up to our nation’s promise of equality and justice…I knew we had to give schools and teachers the resources they need, so they can help students reach their full potential. Because students in some schools simply don’t have the same opportunity to graduate, ready for college and careers in the 21st Century economy, like other students do.  And, I knew that we should only pass an education bill that would help expand access to early childhood education.  Because giving more students the chance to start kindergarten ready to learn is one of the smartest investments our country can make.  I’m proud to report that our bill – the Every Student Succeeds Act – takes major strides on those priorities and so much more.”

 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act will put an end to the one-size-fits-all mandates of No Child Left Behind. And it will end the era of state waivers. That will give teachers and parents in Washington state and across the country some much-needed certainty. Our bipartisan bill will also reduce reliance on high-stakes testing, so teachers and students can spend less time on test prep and more time on learning. I know that’s going to be a major relief for teachers and principals…”

 

“…while the Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more flexibility, it also includes strong federal guardrails to hold schools and states accountable. Our bill will make sure that schools work to close achievement gaps that too often hurt: kids from low-income backgrounds, students of color, those who are learning English, and students with disabilities. 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.”

 

“…Our bipartisan bill will help improve and expand access to preschool programs. Before I ever thought much about running for elected office, I taught preschool in a small community in my home state of Washington…I’ve seen the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. And I am so glad that for the first time, our nation’s primary education law will invest in early childhood education.  I fought hard for this, because I know that investing now in preschool will pay off for years to come.”

 

“I’m going to see to it that this bill is implemented effectively, that schools and teachers get the resources they need, and that students have access to the programs that help them succeed in the classroom and beyond. I’m going to keep pushing to build on the progress we’ve made in this bill and make sure more students start school on strong footing.  I’m going to keep fighting to make college more affordable and reduce the crushing burden of student debt. And I’m going to keep working, every single day, to make sure our government is doing everything possible to help students in Washington state and across the country.”

 

“…As proud as I am that we’ve come this far on the Every Student Succeeds Act, we still need to keep improving educational opportunities. I’m going to see to it that this bill is implemented effectively, that schools and teachers get the resources they need, and that students have access to the programs that help them succeed in the classroom and beyond. I’m going to keep pushing to build on the progress we’ve made in this bill and make sure more students start school on strong footing.  I’m going to keep fighting to make college more affordable and reduce the crushing burden of student debt. And I’m going to keep working, every single day, to make sure our government is doing everything possible to help students in Washington state and across the country.”

 

“Reauthorizing ESEA isn’t the finish line. For me, it’s more of a milestone in an ongoing commitment to swing open more doors of opportunity for more Americans. And I’m asking all of my colleagues here today to join me. Let’s fix No Child Left Behind.  Let’s show teachers and principals we’re on their side. Let’s help instill educational opportunity as our first national goal – and grow our nation stronger for generations to come.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, M. President.

 

“Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson returned to the old elementary school he once attended. With him, he had a major piece of legislation.  At a picnic table on the lawn of the school, President Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – or ESEA.  He said with this law, he envisioned, ‘full educational opportunity as our first national goal.’

 

“Our nation had always held the ideal of education for all – but in 1965, ESEA put that idea 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.

 

“Today, M. President, we have a chance to reauthorize that civil rights law to continue what President Johnson called our first national goal.

 

“We have the chance to finally move away from the No Child Left Behind Act.

 

“And we have the chance to send the Every Student Succeeds Act to the President’s desk to help ensure all kids have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

 

“M. President, I appreciate the tireless work of Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member Bobby Scott in the House and their staffs. But I want to especially thank my partner here in the Senate, the Chairman of the HELP Committee and Senior Senator from Tennessee – Senator Lamar Alexander.

 

“The Chairman had an opportunity to go down a partisan road, but instead, he committed to work with me earlier this year to get this important bill done.

 

“I was proud to work with him, and so many of our colleagues, to break through the gridlock and keep this bill moving forward.

 

“Together, we passed our bill through the HELP Committee with strong bipartisan support, we passed our bill in the Senate with strong bipartisan support, we got approval from our bicameral Conference Committee with strong bipartisan support.

 

“Last week, the House passed this final legislation with strong bipartisan support, and today, I hope my colleagues will approve this final bill with the same bipartisan spirit that has guided our progress this far.

 

“Nearly everyone agrees No Child Left Behind is badly broken.

 

“I have heard from parent after parent and teacher after teacher about how the law over-emphasized testing – and how oftentimes those tests are redundant or unnecessary.

 

“And I’ve seen firsthand how this law isn’t working for my home state of Washington.

 

“No Child Left Behind issued one-size-fits-all mandates, but then failed to give schools the resources they needed to meet those standards. And these mandates were so unworkable that the Obama Administration began giving states waivers from the law’s requirements.

 

“But my state lost its waiver last year.  Parents across the state got a letter in the mail, saying their child’s school was ‘failing.’ And teachers were left, working as hard as ever – knowing that their ‘failing’ label didn’t reflect the reality in their classrooms.

 

“A few months ago, I heard from a teacher in Seattle named Lyon Terry. He’s taught school for more than 17 years, and he pours his energy into engaging with his students.

 

“He starts the morning by playing songs on his guitar, he keeps students laughing with jokes, and every day, he tries to create an environment where kids want to come to school.

 

“But despite Mr. Terry and his fellow teachers’ hard work, his school was still labeled as ‘failing.’

 

“That’s not fair to teachers like Mr. Terry, it’s not fair to parents who need confidence in the education their kids get at public schools, and it’s not fair to students, who should never have to bear the consequences of a badly broken law.

 

“Fixing No Child Left Behind has been one of my top priorities for students, families, and communities back home in Washington state and across the country.

 

“M. President, back in January, we didn’t know if there would be a path to compromise on a bill to reauthorize the nation’s K-12 law.

 

“But, I started out with several principles and Washington state priorities that I’d be fighting for.

 

“First, I knew we needed to make sure schools and states provide a quality education to all students. Because, we already know what happens when we don’t hold them accountable for every child.

 

“Inevitably it’s the kids from low-income neighborhoods, kids of color, kids with disabilities, and kids learning English who too often fall through the cracks.

 

“I said back in January, and I’ll repeat, that true accountability means holding our schools up to our nation’s promise of equality and justice.

 

“M. President, I knew we had to give schools and teachers the resources they need, so they can help students reach their full potential. Because students in some schools simply don’t have the same opportunity to graduate, ready for college and careers in the 21st Century economy, like other students do.

 

“And, I knew that we should only pass an education bill that would help expand access to early childhood education.  Because giving more students the chance to start kindergarten ready to learn is one of the smartest investments our country can make.

 

“I’m proud to report that our bill – the Every Student Succeeds Act – takes major strides on those priorities and so much more.

 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act will put an end to the one-size-fits-all mandates of No Child Left Behind. And it will end the era of state waivers.

 

“That will give teachers and parents in Washington state and across the country some much-needed certainty.

 

“Our bipartisan bill will also reduce reliance on high-stakes testing, so teachers and students can spend less time on test prep and more time on learning.

 

“I know that’s going to be a major relief for teachers and principals, like High School Principal Lori Wyborney in Spokane, Washington. She told me she wants to see common sense policies for testing. That’s what our bill will help do.

 

“M. President, while the Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more flexibility, it also includes strong federal guardrails to hold schools and states accountable.

 

“Our bill will make sure that schools work to close achievement gaps that too often hurt: kids from low-income backgrounds, students of color, those who are learning English, and students with disabilities.

 

“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.

 

“M. President, a couple of weeks ago, I met a parent named Duncan. He has a son in the second grade in Highland Public Schools, and Duncan is active in the PTA.

 

“Many of the kids in his school district struggle with poverty. Duncan said, he’s seen firsthand how, in districts like his, ‘Every dollar matters.’

 

“In the Every Student Succeeds Act, I fought hard to make sure federal resources go to the schools and the districts that need them the most by rejecting a proposal known as ‘portability.’ If enacted, portability would have siphoned off money from schools with the highest concentration of students living in poverty and would send it to more affluent schools.

 

“Our bill protects students who attend schools in low-income areas. And it upholds our responsibility to invest federal resources where they are needed the most. 

 

“Even still, many schools and districts don’t get equal access to the resources they need to help students learn, grow, and thrive. These are things like offering AP classes, how much funding districts spend on each student, access to preschool, and many more.

 

“So our bill will require all schools to report on these issues to help shine a light on resource inequality.

 

“And M. President, our bipartisan bill will help improve and expand access to preschool programs. Before I ever thought much about running for elected office, I taught preschool in a small community in my home state of Washington.

 

“I remember the first day with new students would always start the same way. Some kids wouldn’t know how to hold a pencil or how to turn a page in a book, but over the first few months, they would start to catch on. They learned how to listen at story time. And they learned how to line up for recess.  By the time they left for kindergarten, they had those basic skills and so many more, so they were ready to tackle a full curriculum in school.

 

“I’ve seen the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. And I am so glad that for the first time, our nation’s primary education law will invest in early childhood education.  I fought hard for this, because I know that investing now in preschool will pay off for years to come.

 

“M. President – strong federal guardrails for accountability, shining a light on resource inequities, reducing reliance on high-stakes testing, and increasing access to preschool – those are just some of the great things in this bill. 

 

“But almost as important is what this bill represents.

 

“Gridlock and dysfunction have come to define Congress over the past several years. But on an issue as important as education, and on a law as broken as No Child Left Behind, we worked together and found a way to find common ground.

 

“It’s not the bill I would have written on my own. And I know this isn’t the bill Republicans would have written on their own.

 

“That’s the nature of compromise. But we put partisanship aside and proved that Congress can get results for the American people. And that kind of bipartisanship is what we need more of here in Congress.

 

“With the legislative process for this bill coming to an end, I’m looking ahead to the future.

 

“When all students have the chance to learn, we strengthen our workforce, our nation grows stronger, our economy grows from the middle out, not the top down, and we empower the next generation of Americans to lead the world.

 

“So, as proud as I am that we’ve come this far on the Every Student Succeeds Act, we still need to keep improving educational opportunities.

 

“I’m going to see to it that this bill is implemented effectively, that schools and teachers get the resources they need, and that students have access to the programs that help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.

 

“I’m going to keep pushing to build on the progress we’ve made in this bill and make sure more students start school on strong footing. 

 

“I’m going to keep fighting to make college more affordable and reduce the crushing burden of student debt.

 

“And I’m going to keep working, every single day, to make sure our government is doing everything possible to help students in Washington state and across the country.

 

“Reauthorizing ESEA isn’t the finish line. For me, it’s more of a milestone in an ongoing commitment to swing open more doors of opportunity for more Americans. And I’m asking all of my colleagues here today to join me.

 

“Let’s fix No Child Left Behind.  Let’s show teachers and principals we’re on their side. Let’s help instill educational opportunity as our first national goal – and grow our nation stronger for generations to come.

 

“Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.”