A first rate education is an essential investment in our collective future. The success of young Americans is dependent on a national commitment to education. Today, U.S. students have fallen far below the average developed country in international assessments. Rep. Eshoo consistently supports legislation to help close the achievement gap and improve the quality of all levels of education so all children are able to get the skills they need to succeed.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
Early in President Bush's first term, a significant legislative overhaul of the nation's education system known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed into law. NCLB passed on a bipartisan basis with the goal of creating unprecedented accountability for schools across the nation. For the first time, verifiable metrics including rating and testing were brought to bear to ensure that schools were performing in the best interest of their students. Rep. Eshoo believed this change held great promise, as did many of the law's early proponents, including its principle author, Senator Ted Kennedy. The legislation required a commitment by the Administration to fund the necessary changes in the nation's schools. However, the Bush Administration never provided states with the funding needed to comply with the law's mandates. The unfunded requirements have been untenable for too many states and school systems, and the law has failed to meet Rep. Eshoo's expectations.
Under NCLB, nearly one-third of schools nationwide have been designated failing which is often more demoralizing to teachers and administrators than it is helpful to students. Rep. Eshoo believes we must end the practice of simply labeling schools as failures without providing them with the support they need to change course. Instead, the focus of educational reform should be on developing more effective teacher evaluation systems at the district and state levels with the goal of preparing all graduating students for college or a career by 2020--as President Obama pledged in his inaugural address.
President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have introduced the Race to the Top program to help meet the President's pledge. The $4.35 billion incentive program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and provides competitive grants to encourage states to create conditions for education innovation and reform. Rep. Eshoo supports this move in principle, providing the money is used effectively.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
When Congress passed IDEA in 1975, the federal government required states to provide a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities and committed to pay 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, with the remainder of costs to be paid by states and localities.
Unfortunately, the federal government has not come close to fulfilling its obligation and currently only provides half the promised amount. This shortfall places an onerous financial burden on many local school districts and communities, and it has pitted parents of special needs students against those of other students.
To rectify this untenable situation, Rep. Eshoo is a cosponsor of the Everyone Deserves Unconditional Access to Education (EDUCATE) Act, which would amend IDEA to ensure that the federal government fully meets its obligation to school districts, students, and their families.