Carper Votes to Approve Bipartisan Education Reform Package to Replace No Child Left Behind

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) voted to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – bipartisan legislation negotiated by House and Senate conferees to reauthorize and improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In July, the Senate overwhelmingly approved its version of ESEA reform legislation introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The final measure was approved today by a vote of 85 to 12, and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature. 

“Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights law that provides valuable federal funds to our nation’s poorest schools districts. Over the past five decades, the law has contributed to significant academic gains, particularly among students in our most vulnerable communities. But the last time Congress reauthorized ESEA was 14 years ago through the No Child Left Behind Act—a law that actually expired eight years ago.

“Today, the Senate made much-needed improvements to our nation’s main K-12 federal education law. We finally replaced No Child Left Behind and the new law reflects the lessons we’ve learned since 2001. The Every Student Succeeds Act reaffirms the federal government’s role in ensuring that states set rigorous academic standards across the board, so that our students truly are getting the highest quality education. This bill eliminates some of the overly prescriptive and punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind, while empowering states, school districts, educators, and parents to develop locally driven plans to continue raising student achievement.

“The federal government shares in the responsibility to make sure that all students – no matter their zip code, their race, or their economic status – have access to an education that prepares them to achieve success in the classroom and go on to meaningful careers. This bill goes a long way to making good on that promise. Critically, the Every Student Succeeds Act asks states to provide additional resources to our lowest performing schools. While I understand the concerns that some states may fail to live up to their end of the bargain, I believe the federal government can and should play a strong oversight role during implementation of the new law. We must ensure that states are using the additional flexibility in the new law to make good on the promise to support disadvantaged children.

“Throughout my career, few issues have been more important to me than raising student achievement and improving America’s schools. As Governor of Delaware, I spent eight years focused on ensuring that all students in the First State have access to an education that enables them to reach higher standards. Upon my arrival in the Senate in 2001, I had the chance to work on No Child Left Behind. Today, I am pleased to be part of a strong bipartisan vote to send the Every Student Succeeds Act to the President for his signature. I am particularly grateful for the leadership of Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander. They have proven that the Senate can work across party lines to address one of the most challenging issues facing our nation – improving the education of our children and once again leading the world in K-12 education.”

In July, when the Senate considered its version of the legislation, Senator Carper introduced two bipartisan amendments that have been included in the final package. 

Senator Carper was joined by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) to offer a provision that strengthens the role of charter school leaders as states and school districts develop their Title I plans. Under current law, state departments of education must consult with a range of key stakeholders. The Carper-Gardner amendment adds representatives from charter schools to the list of stakeholders.

Another provision, which Senator Carper offered with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), strengthens programs that prepare and support principals and school leaders. Research shows that the best principals and school leaders have a powerful multiplier effect that can dramatically improve the quality of teaching and raise student achievement. Under current law, programs to attract, retain, and support effective principals and school leaders in high-needs schools are underutilized and underfunded. The Carper-Ayotte amendment ensures that states use federal dollars more efficiently to support activities that improve the quality of principals and school leaders.