by Félix Pérez
By all accounts, yesterday’s overhaul of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind, was a giant step away from the test and punish culture that has labeled students and shackled educators for 13 years.
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The historic Senate action, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 81-17, came two weeks after the U.S. House passed its own rewrite of the law.
Pivotal to getting the Senate to pass the more favorable of the two bills — in addition to the skilled leadership by Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking Senate Education Committee member Patty Murray (D-WA) — was record activism by educators nationwide, said Mary Kusler, director of government relations for the National Education Association. “Make no mistake,” stated Kusler, “not a single one of the victories in the drawn out legislative process would have been possible if not for the continued, fierce advocacy by our members over the past several months.”
Kusler said educators are relishing the long-overdue overhaul of the punitive law. She indicated, however, those same educators will not rest until the Senate and House come together, in what is called a conference committee, to iron out the differences in the respective bills with the same bipartisan spirit evident in the Senate proceedings. Congressional action on a single bill is expected late this summer or early fall.
Congress must act swiftly, and work together with the same bipartisanship that got us this far, to craft a final bill that President Obama will sign. Our students cannot afford to continue down the path of one-size-fits-all assessments that diminish learning. Educators and parents expect House and Senate Democrats and Republicans to craft a bill that provides more opportunity for all students, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.
During the months leading up to the Senate’s vote on the Every Child Achieves Act, NEA’s nearly 3 million educators engaged in an unprecedented level of advocacy and activism on behalf of their students, making a half a million individual contacts to members of Congress, including:
- 216,000 emails
- 32,000 tweets
- 2,000 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and key congressional staff by NEA state affiliate leaders, officers, board members and lobbyists
- 15,000 phone calls
- 25,550 petition signatures and
- 367,000 views of GetESEAright.com.