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(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives met to begin resolving differences in the two education bills that passed each chamber of Congress. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash), who serves on the Conference Committee, has a number of concerns about the funding, testing and accountability provisions of the legislation.

The following statement outlines her concerns:

Mr. Chairman, over the past few years, schools across the country have been facing growing challenges and growing demands. This bill is our chance to help them meet those challenges. I voted for the Senate bill because I knew that it could be good education reform, but it won't be good education reform if we don't address some problems in both the House and Senate bills.

We have a lot of work to do in this Conference to make this bill a prescription for success rather than a recipe for disaster. These are my four priorities for that work:

First, we must provide the resources our students need to succeed. We've got to fully fund IDEA. Doing so will not only meet our obligation to students with special needs, but it will also free up billions of dollars that schools are going to need to make this bill work.

Second, we need to create an accountability system that doesn't just label schools "failures," but actually helps students succeed. I don't think the House or Senate bills pass that test.

For example, we've all heard reports about the improving tests scores in North Carolina and Texas over the past decade. But new research shows that if those states were judged under the standards of either the House or the Senate bill, nearly every school would have been labeled a failure at some point in the past 5 years. Labeling all those schools "failures" would have obscured the progress those students were making, and would have spread resources too thin to help the schools that were struggling the most. We cannot make that mistake.

Third, we've got to recognize that testing does not teach children to read, write or do arithmetic. A test is just a tool to see where students need help.

We're requiring a lot of new testing in this bill, and I'm not sure these tests are going to do that much to help students learn. I am sure that if Congress imposes these tests on the states without paying for them, states will have to take money away from things that help students, like smaller classes and after school programs, to pay for this unfunded mandate.

Washington state has worked hard to develop high-quality tests. This bill would tell Washington educators to spend more time and money developing new tests -- instead of fixing the problems their tests have uncovered.

Fourth, we've got to make sure that disadvantaged students get the additional help they need. When choosing between House and Senate funding formulas, we should always go back to the original ESEA commitment – to provide extra resources for students who need them most.

Finally Mr. Chairman, the Senate bill recognizes that there are a lot of small, but very effective programs that are helping students across the country: academic efforts like support for Advanced Placement classes, and civic education programs like "We the People." When programs like these are helping students we should continue to support them, not do away with them simply because they're small.

Mr. Chairman, parents, teachers and students across the country are counting on us to be their partners -- not their opponents – as they strive for a world-class education. We've got our work cut out for us, but if we focus on responsible reform, we can make sure that this bill helps fulfill the promise of success for all students.