Alabama education advocates applaud passage of Every Student Succeeds Act

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Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 85 to 12. Designed to update America’s public school system, the bill has now been sent to President Barack Obama for a signature.
Education advocates say the new legislation, which replaces No Child Left Behind, gives states more control. Alabama GRIT – a statewide coalition of parents, teachers, military personnel, business leaders and civic organizations that advocates for high expectations in Alabama schools – agrees and supported the law’s passage.
“For years, the democratically-elected Alabama State Board of Education’s efforts to raise academic expectations in our schools have been hampered by misconceptions about the federal government’s role in Alabama’s adoption of our College and Career Ready Standards, which were based on the Common Core State Standards,” said Caroline Novak, chair of Alabama GRIT and president of A+ Education Partnership.
“This bill should put to rest any concerns Alabamians hold about who determines what is learned in Alabama’s classrooms,” Novak continued. “We hope that statewide conversations moving forward will now focus on what we can do together to provide students and teachers what they need to be successful.”

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the same bill by a vote of 359 to 64.

Among other provisions, this legislation restores control of education to state and local school boards by:

  • Prohibiting any federal government entity from coercing or incentivizing states into adopting standards such as Common Core or specific assessments;
  • Ending the U.S. Secretary of Education’s ability to influence state education policies through executive fiat and conditional waivers;
  • Prohibiting the U.S. Department of Education from imposing any additional mandates on states and school districts in the areas of standards, assessments and state accountability plans, beyond what is specified in the legislation; and,
  • Codifying that adoption of standards and assessments are solely the prerogative and responsibility of the states and not the federal government.

“As we move forward, we are hopeful that we can now focus on what is taking place inside Alabama’s classroom instead of politics and misperceptions,” said Jessica Hammonds, executive director of Alabama GRIT. “By reducing the role of the federal government in education in Alabama, our state and local boards of education can create clearer paths to help every child in Alabama reach his or her full potential in life, whether they continue on to college or directly enter the workforce after high school.”

The Alabama delegation, in both chambers, were split on the vote. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) all voted in support of ESSA. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05), Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-06) all voted against it.

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