U.S. Senate ushers in new era in public education with historic vote

December 9, 2015

GAE welcomes bill to create greater opportunity for every student to succeed

ATLANTA -- The U.S. Senate today approved S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as this week.

"This is a victory for every child in Georgia," said Dr. Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). "This historic rewrite shows what can happen when lawmakers and educators work together to ensure the focus is on providing opportunity for all students."

“Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms,” said Chapman. “This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new system that includes an ‘opportunity dashboard’ with indicators of school success and student support. Not only does it reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools, but it decouples high-stakes decisions and statewide testing so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — inspire a lifelong love of learning.”

For GAE members, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The extraordinary effort to get Congress to rewrite NCLB, resulted in an unprecedented bipartisan and bicameral compromise and eventual bill language in late November. The bill sailed through the U.S. House with a vote of 359 in favor to 64 against.

Leading up to ESSA’s passage, educators mobilized in Georgia and across the nation, using face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, phone calls, petitions, emails and social media to urge Congress to bring the joy of teaching and learning back to the classroom and help close opportunity and resource gaps so that all students have access to a well-rounded education. Educators nationwide made nearly a half million individual contacts to members of Congress. Chapman says that GAE members realized what these changes could mean for their students and schools and made the necessary calls to their Congressional representatives.

“Today, the U.S. Senate took a bold and historic step to usher in a new era in public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “This is a deserved victory for public education because the Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure all students have equal opportunity to a high-quality public education regardless of ZIP Code.”