The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) was passed by the Senate on a vote of 81-17. National PTA applauds the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for crafting the historic and bipartisan legislation. We believe that this bill is a solid foundation for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB). The Senate bill will soon go to a Conference Committee with the House to work out the differences between its reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).
Throughout the consideration of the reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB, National PTA and PTA members across the nation strongly advocated for the inclusion of several provisions to improve family engagement in the bill. Thousands of PTA members and advocates called, emailed and tweeted at Senators voicing their support for amendments to improve family engagement in the bill. Because of this impressive grassroots advocacy by PTA members, the Senate adopted an amendment by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) that will provide school districts and schools with the capacity to effectively engage families in their children’s education. The inclusion of this program in the Senate bill is a huge victory for children and families. The House bill (H.R. 5) also includes this program.
Furthermore, in large part to the efforts of local PTA members, the bill contains several other laudable family engagement provisions such as the inclusion of parents in the development of school district plans to support student achievement and promote family engagement strategies in early childhood learning programs. Additionally, through the leadership of Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Jack Reed (D-RI), language was also included to encourage Title I school districts to invest additional resources in family engagement. In total, 178 amendments were introduced, with 65 accepted and 13 rejected. Several accepted amendments included the creation of a student data privacy commission to inform policymakers on updates to current laws governing this issue, addressing student access to digital learning resources at home, and the establishment of a full-service community schools grant program. Other amendments that were adopted include a proposal from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) allowing certain funds to be spent on mental health awareness programs and one by Sen. Bennet that would require states to limit the total time students spend on tests.
National PTA has long advocated against any proposal that would permit federal dollars to follow a student to another public school or for private school vouchers. The association was pleased that several amendments that attempted to do so were defeated.
Now that both houses of Congress have passed bills to reauthorize the ESEA-NCLB, they must come together to work out the differences between the two bills in conference committees. Once there is agreement, the bill will go back to each chamber of Congress for another vote. The final step is to send the bill to President Obama for his approval. We are excited that this long overdue re-authorization is closer to a reality. National PTA will continue to work to improve educational opportunities and experiences of all children across the United States.
Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.