Hagan & Bennet Lead Moderate Senators in Push for Commonsense Reforms in NCLB Waiver Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. –With students across the country headed back to school, U.S. Senators Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are leading a group of moderate Democratic Senators in pushing for commonsense education reforms. In a letter sent today to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Hagan, Bennet and eight other Senators encourage Duncan to follow their statement of principles for education reform as he crafts his plan to relieve states from certain sanctions in No Child Left Behind.

Secretary Duncan joined the group of moderate Senators when they first outlined their principles for meaningful education reform in March of this year.

“Our country cannot afford to leave our children unprepared for the future,” said Hagan, who along with Bennet is a member of the Senate committee with responsibility for education policy. “States and districts across the country are looking for relief and flexibility sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, progress on needed commonsense reforms of No Child Left Behind, like those that my colleagues and I proposed this spring, has largely stalled. Our students deserve better—and my colleagues and I will not stop fighting until they receive it.” 

“While we continue to work hard to produce a bipartisan bill to fix our schools, we have to recognize the need for relief and flexibility for our states and school districts now,” said Bennet. “I hear from Coloradans every day about the need to improve our schools, and we can’t afford to wait. These principles can inform our efforts to remove bureaucratic barriers to innovation and reform that are taking away from the quality of kids’ education.”

Last month, the White House signaled that if Congress failed to take action to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, the Department of Education would begin granting waivers to states for relief from some of the requirements created by the federal education law.  This includes a requirement of 100 percent student proficiency in math and reading by 2014.  If a school does not meet this standard, it could be labeled a “failing school.”  This requirement has driven states to lower their standards in order to make it easier for students to score as proficient.

Instead of lowering standards and simply punishing failure, the statement released by the moderate Senators in March included four key principles essential to fixing No Child Left Behind and providing all of our students with a high-quality education:

·      Increase Local Flexibility

·      Spur Innovation

·      Reward Success

·      Ensure Transparency and Equity

“While it remains our first choice that Congress move quickly to reauthorize this critical legislation, we also know that our states are in need of relief now, and our kids can’t afford to wait,” the Senators wrote to Duncan. “We understand that your flexibility package is not intended to replace comprehensive reform, but as we in Congress work towards that goal, we ask you keep these principles at the forefront of your plans.”

Also signing the letter were Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Mark Begich (D-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Mark Udall (D-CO).