“Every Student Succeeds”

It’s a hopeful and proactive statement…and one that forms the title of the long-overdue re-authorization of the nation’s education law—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Poised for a final vote in the U.S. Senate on December 9, the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (Senate Bill 1177) passed the House of Representatives last week by a wide margin, 381 to 41, with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. This is something almost unheard of in Washington these days.

The legislation represents a compromise version of separate House and Senate bills passed earlier this year. It would replace the current version of ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, which went into effect 14 years ago.

Significantly, the legislation would turn the tide of federal education policy toward the wisdom of local control. In my 40-plus years in education, whether as a district superintendent, an executive county superintendent or the NJSBA executive director, I’ve held firmly to the belief that the best decisions for our public schools are made locally. Nothing has deterred me from that conviction.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is good news for local school boards. The legislation supports local autonomy in school administration, budget development and related district operations. In addition, it protects federal investments in Title I for disadvantaged students, and prevents the diversion of public tax dollars for private use.

It’s now time for us, as education advocates, to make the final push that will turn Every Student Succeeds into reality. But, first, I ask you to contact Senator Robert Menendez and Senator Cory Booker to thank them for their support of the legislation.

But don’t let your advocacy stop with New Jersey’s U.S. Senators. I urge you to take the additional step of reaching out to other members of the Senate through connections you may have in other states. The message should be straightforward. Following is sample language based on analysis by the National School Boards Association:

As a school leader, student achievement is very important to me. I urge you to vote YES on the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bipartisan legislation addresses priorities for public education, including local governance and flexibility, accountability to stakeholders, and local-state innovation and reform efforts for continuous student achievement.

This summer, after the House and Senate passed separate ESEA reauthorization bills, I wrote a “Reflections” column, “Good News from Washington (It’s True!).” In it, I paraphrased the words of Tom Shannon, a former executive director of the National School Boards Association: Public education is a local function, a state responsibility and a national concern.

By tying these roles together judiciously, the Every Student Succeeds Act in many ways can be viewed as a victory for local school boards and our students.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at [email protected].

Follow me on Twitter: @DrLarryFeinsod

[December 9: As this week’s School Board Notes went to press, the Senate passed S.1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act.]