The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is extremely disappointed that the U.S. Senate today passed a bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, that falls woefully short of keeping the promise of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which it was intended to reauthorize.
First passed in 1965, the ESEA has served as our national guarantor that all children have access to quality educational opportunities. To LDF, the ESEA is first and foremost a civil rights bill. Its reauthorization must preserve its longstanding components that have secured equality and opportunity for students of color.
Instead of leveling the playing field for all children and setting a course for future opportunities and economic independence, the Every Child Achieves Act turns its back on the original ESEA by stripping the bill of any meaningful accountability. While the bill includes data reporting requirements to show achievement gaps or resource inequities, it does not include incentives for states to address opportunity or achievement gaps or eliminate disparities, such as discipline disparities. Critically, the bill strips any federal oversight and accountability to ensure that states provide access to quality education for all children.
LDF President and Director-Counsel, Sherrilyn Ifill, expressed her disappointment with the Senate vote: “Today’s vote is not a step forward. We all wanted to eliminate the prescriptive nature and punitive sanctions of No Child Left Behind, which only stigmatized and penalized states and schools. But we wanted that replaced with a strong, effective federal role for monitoring and obtaining better education results for the children in our community. We didn’t get that here.”
According to LDF’s Washington, D.C. Director Leslie Proll, “The original ESEA was drafted to ensure that states receiving federal dollars use that funding consistent with the law’s commitment to creating educational opportunities and closing achievement gaps. The Every Child Achieves Act turns its back on this commitment.”
Amendments that would have strengthened accountability for student sub-group performance and resource equity provisions failed in the Senate. In addition, an amendment that would have prohibited bullying based upon actual or perceived LGBT status or gender identity also failed. Janel George, LDF Senior Education Policy Counsel stated, “The failure of the Student Non-Discrimination Act amendment to pass, while garnering strong support, shows that we have a long way to go to ensure that schools are safe places where all students can learn and thrive and feel included.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.