WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement after the Senate voted with an overwhelming bipartisan majority to approve S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The bill reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was first enacted by Congress 50 years ago, and replaces the 13-year-old No Child Left Behind Act. The vote was 85-12.
“Education is the great equalizer and it is incredibly important that all Maryland public schools are able to provide the same high-quality education to their students, regardless of a child’s zip code. Enacted more than a decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act had the best of intentions and a comforting name, but was beset with red tape and an over-reliance on assessments. The legislation we have just passed was the product of thoughtful work by Democrats and Republicans to put children before partisanship. The ESSA will allow states to develop accountability systems that more accurately represent student progress in the classroom, while still ensuring that students are held to the high-yet-achievable standard of being college- and career-ready upon completion of high school.
“I’m proud that the ESSA takes additional positive steps to ensure schools support the whole child, both physically and mentally. The approved bill includes an amendment I offered with Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to allow schools in low-income areas to use federal resources under Title I to provide school-based mental health programs. School-based mental health programs have been proven to increase educational outcomes, decrease absences and improve student achievement.
“In an effort to ensure that all students – future active participants in our civic society – have a basic understanding of how our government functions, I was pleased to work with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to modify the American History and Civics Title of ESSA. Our provision will allow evidence-based civic and government education programs that emphasize the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, to receive federal funding for expansion and dissemination for voluntary use. For too long under NCLB, a singular focus on certain assessments pushed out other important subjects like these that are essential components of a well-rounded education.
“Legislating is about compromise and, in many respects, this bill is a vast improvement over the No Child Left Behind Act. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to prevent a dangerous proposal offered by Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) from being included in the final conference report that would have reduced Maryland’s share of Title I-A funding for the education of low-income children by $40 million per year. The Burr proposal would have punished states like Maryland that have made the decision to properly invest in funding education for our children. Congress must not repeat the same mistakes learned under the No Child Left Behind Act by underfunding our nation’s public schools. I stand ready to work with members from both parties to ensure that all Americans can access a high-quality education.”