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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Education Reforms Clear Senate, Head to President’s Desk

Major education bill to rewrite “No Child Left Behind” includes several Baldwin-authored provisions to streamline testing, improve technology in the classroom, and strengthen career and technical education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate voted 85-12 to approve a bipartisan, four-year education reform bill that includes several provisions championed by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, aimed at streamlining testing, improving technology in the classroom, and strengthening career and technical education, among others. The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), which is a bill to rewrite the broken No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Statement from Senator Baldwin:

“The Every Student Succeeds Act is a strong bipartisan step forward as we finally fix the broken No Child Left Behind law, which was a one-size-fits-all approach that simply did not work for Wisconsin educators or students. I began this process committed to working in a bipartisan manner to replace that broken law with a measure that will ensure our country’s children all have access to the education they deserve. Today, we put politics aside in order to fulfill the fifty-year-old promise of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that says that every child, no matter what circumstances they are born into in this great country, has the opportunity to achieve.

“This bipartisan bill takes steps to address the deficiencies of No Child Left Behind, while ensuring that every student can succeed.  It provides greater flexibility and more long-term certainty for our states and schools than the current waiver system can provide. It holds states and schools accountable for providing all students access to a quality education. It supports efforts to provide students with a well-rounded education and help them be healthy and safe as they learn. And it incorporates priorities I have championed, together with Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate, such as helping to reduce unnecessary and redundant testing and supporting the smart use of educational technology. 

“I believe that every child deserves a high-quality, free public education - a right that is enshrined in Wisconsin’s constitution. While today’s step is long overdue and one to be celebrated, our work to ensure that all kids have an equal opportunity for education does not end here. As a member of the HELP Committee, it is up to us to ensure this law is implemented faithfully and effectively for all students – regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. I remain committed to my work on these priorities and others as Congress continues its work on behalf of children and families in Wisconsin and all across this country.”  

Vicki Lyons, Wisconsin Educational Technology Leaders, said, “Wisconsin has long been a progressive education state and the Wisconsin Educational Technology Leaders applaud the leadership of Senator Baldwin on behalf of Wisconsin’s children in support of I-TECH funding in the Every Student Succeeds Act. I-TECH funding will allow districts and schools in Wisconsin and across the country to support teacher professional development, device acquisition, and complete the broadband infrastructure needed to support 21st century learning environments.”

“The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) is pleased that the bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is headed to President Obama’s desk.  The replacement of the well-intentioned but badly flawed No Child Left Behind Act, with its ‘one-size-fits-all’ system of sanctions that erroneously put our nation on a path toward labelling all public schools as ‘failing,’ with the new, more flexible Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is long overdue,” said Dan Rossmiller, WASB Government Relations Director. “The WASB is pleased that the ESSA has bipartisan support and that it addresses a number of key priorities for school boards specifically and public education generally.  Those priorities include recognition of the role and importance of local governance by school boards as well as flexibility, accountability to stakeholders, and support for local-state innovation and reform efforts to promote continuous improvement in student achievement. We thank Senator Baldwin for supporting this important reform and for her work on helping to craft this landmark legislation in the Senate committee that addresses education issues, in the Conference Committee, and on the Senate floor.”

Betsy Kippers, Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) President said, “We know that to inspire students' natural curiosity, imagination and love of learning we need an education system that closes opportunity and resource gaps by providing the support, tools, and time to learn that every student deserves. Thanks to efforts from Senator Baldwin and her colleagues, the Every Student Succeeds Act takes us another step forward to these goals and great public schools for all students.”

Provisions championed by Senator Baldwin in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) include:

Testing.  ESSA includes a grant program supporting auditing and streamlining state and local testing systems, based on Senator Baldwin’s Supporting Making Assessments Reliable and Timely (SMART) Act. The provision would move away from the punitive nature of NCLB and help remove the pressure of testing from teachers, students and parents. It would also help states further address the burdensome side of testing by supporting their efforts to streamline and improve their assessment systems. In April, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called Senator Baldwin’s provision a “significant contribution” to the overall legislation.   

Educational Technology.  ESSA includes Senator Baldwin and Senator Hatch’s I-TECH (Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons) program as a required use of a portion of a new formula-based block grant.  I-TECH, based on Senator Baldwin’s Enhancing Education Through Technology Act (EETT), provides funds to state and local educational agencies and schools to support the use of technology to improve student achievement and college and career readiness, the skills of teachers and school leaders, and the efficiency and productivity of education systems at all levels.  

Physical Education.  ESSA includes support for physical and health education as an allowable use of a 20% mandatory set-aside for “safe and healthy student” initiatives under a new formula-based block grant.  During markup, the Senate HELP Committee approved an amendment, offered by Senator Baldwin, to include a standalone physical education program in its ESEA reauthorization bill.        

Afterschool Programs.  ESSA reauthorizes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which supports afterschool efforts, with language that  allows these funds to be used to support career and technical education and workforce readiness activities.  This language was based on Senator Baldwin’s Afterschool and Workforce Readiness Act

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Accountability and Reporting.  ESSA includes language allowing states to include measures of postsecondary readiness as part of their systems to hold schools accountable for student performance.  It also allows states to include information about student attainment of CTE proficiencies in their annual state report cards on schools.  This language was based in part on Senator Baldwin’s Career Ready Act. In 2014, Senator Baldwin, a co-chair of the bipartisan CTE Caucus, received the Association for Career and Technical Education’s “Policymaker of the Year” award for her work on behalf of CTE and her continued support of career and technical education.      

Career Counseling. ESSA includes support for academic and career counseling as an allowable use of a 20% mandatory set-aside for “safe and healthy student” initiatives under a new formula-based block grant.  This language was based in part on Senator Baldwin’s Career Ready Act.

Next Generation High Schools. ESSA requires states to describe in their state plans how they will ensure successful student transitions between middle and high school and between high school and postsecondary education or work, including through career counseling and partnerships with the local employers.  This language is based in part on Senator Baldwin’s Next Generation High Schools Act

Ready to Learn.  ESSA provides dedicated funding for student enrichment programs, including Ready to Learn, which supports the development of educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families.  During markup, the Senate HELP Committee approved an amendment, offered by Senator Casey and cosponsored by Senator Baldwin, to reauthorize the Ready to Learn program.           

Native Language Immersion.  ESSA includes a grant program to support native language immersion efforts.  During markup, the Senate HELP Committee approved an amendment, offered by Senators Franken and Murkowski and cosponsored by Senator Baldwin, to include a standalone native language immersion grant program. 

Resource EquityESSA requires states to undertake interventions in their lowest performing schools; as part of the intervention, a school district must develop a plan that, among other requirements, identifies resource inequities in the school.  During floor consideration, Senator Baldwin introduced an amendment which would have required states to develop and implement plans to address resource inequities in all schools.