Bennet Secures Key Provisions in Bill, Pledges Continued Push for Additional Changes
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today helped pass the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill to fix No Child Left Behind, out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill, approved 22-0 by the committee, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the chief federal law addressing K-12 education. It reforms many of the policies from No Child Left Behind, the previous version of the bill, while maintaining several key policies that have proved successful.
"It's encouraging to be a part of a bipartisan process to make much-needed updates to ESEA, which are long overdue," Bennet said. "This bill is a good start, and we're glad it addresses many of Colorado's priorities. It rolls back areas of federal overreach and eliminates No Child Left Behind's one-size-fits-all approach that disempowered those closest to our kids and hindered innovation and advancement. It also helps provide supports for our teachers and school leaders and evidence-based interventions for schools needing improvement.
"We made some good progress this week, and we'll continue to push for more changes to ensure there are appropriate accountability measures to ensure all kids have access to a quality education," Bennet added. "We must ensure that this bill builds on our successes while turning us away from the failed practices of the past. Every child should have access to a great education that prepares them to succeed in the 21st century economy."
Bennet's provisions in the bill and priorities moving forward:
Bennet secured several key Colorado priorities in the base bill and successfully added several amendments during this week's consideration of the bill in the HELP Committee:
Improving Equity and Addressing Inequalities: Bennet's work on the bill thus far includes securing provisions to ensure high-need schools can attract and retain great teachers and leaders by improving their support systems, including:
• Access to more higher-quality, evidence-based professional development, resources, and supports;
• A bipartisan amendment to support opportunities for teachers to grow and take on leadership roles in their school or district while allowing them to remain in the classroom;
• Support for teacher and school leader residency programs inspired by proposals Bennet has previously authored;
• A provision similar to Bennet's proposal to prepare and recruit, train, and retain effective principals;
• Funding for districts to modernize their entire human capital systems, including improving a district's approach to preparation, recruitment, hiring, placement, retention, dismissal, compensation, professional development, tenure, and advancement.
• Supporting efforts to provide students with vital information about federal financial aid in order to help increase access to college, inspired by a proposal Bennet has authored with Sen. Alexander to simply the FAFSA and federal financial aid;
• An amendment to create a pilot project that would allow districts to design and implement a weighted student funding system to promote funding systems that provide resources based on student need and include additional funding for students from low-income families and English learners;
• New reporting requirements to increase transparency on the resources schools receive;
• Ensuring districts have the flexibility to spend federal funding to support early childhood education.
State-Driven Accountability Systems: Bennet has worked to ensure the bill reduces the prescriptive, top-down approach of No Child Left Behind while ensuring kids from low-income families receive access to a great education, including:
• State-designed accountability systems that maintain statewide annual testing requirements to monitor student achievement and growth and require states to set goals and identify schools that need improvement;
• Preserving one of No Child Left Behind's strengths by breaking down data to show if and how achievements gaps are being closed for different subgroups of students. This ensures transparency for parents and communities to monitor their students' academic progress year to year;
• Requiring districts to develop and implement evidence-based interventions for schools needing improvement;
• Reducing the burden of data reporting requirements for local school districts.
Encouraging Innovation to Meet Challenges in Schools: The bill provides incentives for educators on the ground to apply their own creative thinking to address our most persistent education challenges, including:
• A bipartisan amendment to provide funding for schools, districts, nonprofits, and small businesses to develop, implement, expand, and replicate innovative and evidence-based practices to improve student achievement and increase graduation rates and college enrollment;
• Provisions from Bennet's English Learning and Innovation Act, which support evidence-based and capacity building efforts to help English learners attain proficiency;
• Revamping the Charter School Program to support and encourage the development of charter schools that show promise and the replication of high-quality charter schools which have demonstrated success;
• Connecting payment for educational services to positive outcomes in order to encourage innovative new educational approaches that help close the achievement gap while stretching taxpayer dollars further. This provision is based on a bipartisan bill Bennet has championed to create pay-for-success contracts for a variety of government services.
Supporting rural schools: The committee adopted a bipartisan package of amendments introduced by Bennet to support schools in rural communities, including:
• A provision to help level the playing field by providing technical assistance to rural school districts that request support when applying for competitive federal grants;
• An amendment that clarifies that rural school districts or education service agencies, like a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), can join together and submit a single consolidated application for funding under ESEA;
• A requirement that states consult with their rural school districts when developing state plans for vital Title I funding.
Bennet has pledged to continue pressing for changes to the bill that will improve equity and accountability, spur innovation, and provide for greater flexibility in our schools. Specifically, he will continue to push amendments that will:
• Close the comparability loophole by ensuring school districts are providing at least the same amount of resources to all its students;
• Require states to at least identify the bottom five percent of low-performing schools and make necessary changes to improve achievement at these schools;
• Requiring states to measure student growth, including measuring how much progress a student makes from one year to the next, comparing the student against him or herself, rather than comparing one year's fourth grade students to the next year's fourth grade students;
• Increase transparency around testing so parents better understand the purpose and to encourage states and districts to make smart decisions about the quantity and quality of the tests they are administering;
• Support the creation of Family Engagement Centers that will provide technical assistance and coordination to strengthen parental engagement in schools and districts.
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