Unfortunately, legislation passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives reinforces the “soft bigotry of low expectations”, a phrase coined by President George W. Bush.
This afternoon, the House voted 221-207 to pass the Student Success Act (HR 5), legislation which rewrites the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, and which CEC opposed.
You can read CEC’s major concerns about the bill here; and here’s a summary:
- Reduces Accountability for Students with Disabilities
- Eliminates the 1% Cap on Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards
- Eliminates Highly Qualified Teacher Provisions
- Lacks Focus on Professional Development
- Reduces, Capps and Eliminates Education Funding
- Promotes Privatization of Education
- Fails to include the Keeping All Students Safe Act
- Ignores the Needs of High-Ability Students
Many members of Congress mentioned the significant step backwards HR 5 takes for students with disabilities – in fact some are calling it the “Letting Students Down Act”! (Remember to follow us on Twitter for real time info @CECAdvocacy )
- “It [HR 5] lets down students with disabilities by allowing schools to lower their standards for educating these children.” – Congressman George Miller (D-CA), ranking member on House Education Committee
- “Protections in this bill for students with disabilities are inadequate” – Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA)
- “We can’t focus on antiquated views of what kids [with developmental disabilities] don’t know.” – Congressman Greg Harper (R-MS)
- “There’s an accountability hole so huge in this bill that a school bus could drive through it. We need more accountability for students with disabilities, not less.” – Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)
During the debate, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), a mother of a six-year-old with Down Syndrome, gave an impassioned plea to only allow alternate assessments for the 1% of students who have the most significant cognitive disabilities, rather than lifting the cap as HR 5 proposed. McMorris-Rodgers urged her colleagues to pass education legislation that recognizes the high standards students with disabilities can meet if they are given the right tools. She received a pledge from the Chairman of the Education Committee, Rep. Kline (R-MN) to work more on this issue as the bill continues through the legislative process.
What’s next for HR 5 and ESEA reauthorization?
Well, that’s a good question! The Senate Education Committee passed its ESEA reauthorization bill, which as you know, sets forth a very different vision for the future of PK-12 education. The full Senate has yet to consider its version of the bill and if and when it does, the two chambers will have to work out the many, many differences between the two measures before it can go to President Obama to sign into law. All of that is to say, there’s a long road ahead!
CEC greatly appreciates the outpouring of its members who took the time to contact their Representatives to urge a “NO” vote. A strong voice from the education and disability communities is so important as this bill moves forward!