Ahead of next week's expected House vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), a Republican successor to the No Child Left Behind law, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted the package of educational reforms he introduced just before last week's holiday recess. The package of three bills, introduced June 26, would assist English language learner students and their families, improve funding and support for school libraries, and make dual-language programs available in low-income communities.
The package includes:
- the Families Learning and Understanding English Together (FLUEnT) Act to improve family bilingual education support and emphasize English language acquisition
- the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act to provide every school with a qualified librarian
- the Providing Resources to Improve Dual Language Education (PRIDE) Act to improve access to dual-language educational programs for younger students
Grijalva separately introduced the Success in the Middle Act on June 11, a bill that would create new education-specific federal grants for states based on their proportion of low income children aged 5 to 17, among other factors. That bill, which focuses resources on middle schools with students at high risk of academic failure, already has 11 House cosponsors.
"Our schools need meaningful needs-based reforms, not top-down ideology," Grijalva said. "Identifying what works and where it works is the best way to get the results we need. These bills are about responding to the specific needs of under-represented communities. More politics is the last thing our students want in their lives, as we've seen with the student loan rate disaster. They deserve to have the resources they need to succeed and live the lives they choose. My bills are about providing that opportunity."
The House Republican majority is expected to bring the Student Success Act to the House floor next week -- a bill that consolidates and reduces support for English language learners, ignores chronic school underfunding, and fails to address a host of other pertinent questions. The bill passed on a party-line vote by the House Education and the Workforce Committee earlier this year. As the Huffington Post wrote in June:
Under the legislation, schools would not have to meet federally prescribed performance goals -- a proposal markedly different from current law, the Obama administration's waiver system and a competing bill offered up by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Kline's bill also consolidates a slew of programs specifically devoted to things like English language learners and neglected children into Title I, a program devoted to helping schools with poor students. [. . .]
He also added that continuing to restrict Title I money primarily for the use of poor students is a good backstop. "We don't let [school administrators] spend it for other things, but we let them move it around so they can get what they need," he said.
A coalition of civil rights and business groups, including the Education Trust, La Raza and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, circulated a statement that lashes into Kline's bill. "We believe the legislation falls short of the lessons learned" from [No Child Left Behind]'s shortcomings, the groups wrote. "We are disappointed that the legislation does not demand targeted support and real improvement for students stuck in low-performing schools."
"I can't support the bill the majority is bringing up next week, and neither should my colleagues," Grijalva said. "This isn't an attempt to make schools perform better or help underachieving communities get the help they need."
Grijalva supported the Democratic alternative bill introduced by Rep. George Miller during the Committee vote and has said he will vote for it again when it is introduced on the floor as an alternative to H.R. 5.