On December 10, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act that replaces the previous version of the law, No Child Left Behind.
While the bill isn’t all that we had hoped for, it does eliminate some of the most damaging components of the previous law’s high-states testing and accountability regime and gets rid of the School Improvement Grants program, whose school closure, chartering and reconstitution requirements have destabilized Black and Brown communities across the country.
In rewriting ESEA, Congress maintained the commitment of federal funding to disadvantaged students and ended the use of standardized tests as the sole basis for accountability. But the most significant long-term change is that the new law devolves responsibility for how federal education dollars are used to the states. This provides both a threat and an opportunity for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, as we push for the public schools that all our children deserve.
AROS has written a policy brief for our partner groups and allies that outlines some of the most critical components of ESSA for our work and begins to identify a path forward.
Public schools are public institutions.
Our school districts should be guided by a commitment to provide all children with the opportunity to attend a quality public school in their community. The corporate model of school reform seeks to turn public schools over to private managers and encourages competition—as opposed to collaboration between schools and teachers. These strategies take away the public’s right to have a voice in their local schools, and inherently create winners and losers among both schools and students. Our most vulnerable children become collateral damage in these reforms. We will not accept that.