WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate voted with an overwhelming bipartisan majority to approve S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was first passed by Congress 50 years ago. The vote was 81-17.
“Ensuring access to a high-quality education is one of the most important duties of government. The last comprehensive update to the ESEA, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, had the best of intentions and a comforting name. In reality, the red tape and over-reliance on assessments it codified have left far too many children behind since its passage. I was encouraged to see Democrats and Republicans working together to put children before partisanship and craft the Every Child Achieves Act in a thoughtful manner. The ECAA will allow states to develop accountability systems that 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 ECAA recognizes that to support a successful student, schools should support the whole child, both physically and mentally. The approved bill includes my amendment co-authored with Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that will allow schools in low-income areas to use federal resources for providing school-based mental health programs. School-based mental health programs have been proven to increase educational outcomes, decrease absences and improve student assessments. And in an effort to ensure all our students have an understanding of how our government functions, I also would like to thank Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for working with me to modify the American History and Civics Title of ECAA. Our amendment allows 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, a singular focus on assessments pushed out other important core subjects like these.
“The Senate is about comprise. In many respects, this bill is a vast improvement over No Child Left Behind, but it is not the bill I would have written. I worked with Senator Mikulski to modify a dangerous amendment offered by Senator Burr that would have reduced Maryland’s share of Title I-A funding for educating low-income children by $40 million per year. The Burr amendment punished states like Maryland that have made the decision to properly invest in funding education for our children. I worked hand-in-hand with Senator Mikulski to modify the amendment to prevent Maryland from losing money in the short term, but, in the future, the final compromise on this measure sets a dangerous precedent changing the Title I-A formula for the benefit of our state’s low-income children.
“No child should be fearful of going to school or struggle in continuously low-performing schools. I was greatly disappointed to see amendments that would have made our school safer places for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students fail to garner sufficient support and amendments that would have required states to work with local education agencies to address continuously low-performing schools fail as well. As this legislation moves to be reconciled with action in the House of Representatives, I will continue to work with members from both parties to ensure that all Americans can access a quality education.”