On a partisan vote, Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee today pushed through an ideological bill that doubles down on the across-the-board sequestration cuts to education programs and undermines the progress made in education for poor and minority children. The Republican legislation would gut education funding, roll back protections for disadvantaged students, and remove accountability provisions that ensure all students receive an excellent education.
"The Republican bill places politics before students," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the committee. "The country needs a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. But Republicans have passed an extreme bill that will never be signed by the president, ensuring that this broken law will remain in place."
The bill that passed today (H.R. 5) walks away from the broad national consensus that schools must prepare students to graduate college and career ready. The bill fails to hold states, districts and schools accountable for supporting and improving the achievement of all students. Under H.R. 5, states would be allowed to provide a separate and different education to students with disabilities than to their peers. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that this bill would "dramatically alter the academic landscape for students with disabilities, jeopardizing their ability to graduate from high school, go to college and obtain employment." The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights believes that H.R. 5 proposes to marginalize underserved communities by completely removing the federal focus on the achievement of underprivileged students.
"We can't shortchange our nation's future by shortchanging our kids -- we need to pass a better education bill in Washington," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. "The Majority's ESEA bill lacks the funding and accountability that America's youth need to get a world-class education and compete in a global economy. The Democratic alternative not only provides better funding and accountability but it addresses civil rights; teacher and family engagement; school health and safety; and even disruptions from natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy or the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma."
Democrats offered one comprehensive substitute amendment to the Republican bill. The Democratic substitute, unlike the Republican bill, provides significant funding levels for education, maintains accountability protections for students, preserves dedicated funding streams for disadvantaged students, and upholds our civil rights and equity responsibilities to ensure all students receive a high quality education. Republicans rejected the Democratic amendment.
"The Republican's partisan bill abandons the federal commitment to providing all children access to a quality education. A unique coalition of organizations, ranging from the National Center for Learning Disabilities to the US Chamber of Commerce, have weighed in against the Republican bill because they believe it will not sufficiently prepare our children to go to college and pursue careers in the increasingly global economy. I agree. This bill represents another missed opportunity for us to work together on a responsible and bipartisan product that improves education in America," said Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.).
Stakeholders from across the education community including business and labor, civil rights organizations, disability rights advocates, and education organizations opposed the Republican bill. The Democratic substitute received support from across the spectrum.