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Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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  • Student Success Act—Conference Report—Continued

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    MIKULSKI. Mr. President, today I wish to talk about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

    I want to thank Chairmen Kline and Alexander and Ranking Members Scott and Murray for their work in putting together a bipartisan, bicameral framework to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA. I know that it was not easy, especially in this political climate, but politics were put aside; and children, teachers, and schools were put first.

    I am really pleased how this process played out--it was truly a bipartisan effort. I have always believed that one of the pathways to success is restoring regular order, and they did just that. While this bill is not perfect--it is not one that Democrats nor Republicans would have written--it is a step in the right direction towards overhauling and improving the failed tenets of No Child Left Behind.

    ESEA was passed 50 years ago to ensure that kids living in poverty would receive the extra help they needed in order to succeed. It was a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. It was the first time that the Federal Government really got involved in education. Before then, education was considered a local responsibility, not something for the Feds to meddle in; but President Johnson's vision changed that. He wanted to lift kids out of poverty and give them their fair shot to excel.

    Since then, we passed the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, NCLB. While done with the best of intentions, it was deeply flawed. With NCLB, instead of us ``racing to the top,'' we ended up with ``racing to the test'' and excessive testing. NCLB is also bad because it gave us a one-size-fits-all approach out of Washington, despite whether you lived in a big city like Baltimore or in a rural county like Somerset County on the Eastern Shore.

    We wanted to get rid of ``race to the test,'' understanding that one size does not fit all, and implement a system that understands we must have Federal guidelines with local solutions and initiatives; then we needed to back up our guidelines with money because school districts were struggling to meet their bottom line.

    So I went to work on a bipartisan basis to try and deal with that. My first rule was: do no harm. That is why I beat back the Southern strategy that was going to change the title I formula for funding. Maryland would have lost $40 million--that means every single [[Page S8469]] school district in Maryland would have lost money. I couldn't let that happen, so I put together a coalition of other Senators to beat that back, and we did just that. Maryland will keep its $40 million. For Baltimore City, they won't lose $6 million. For Baltimore County, they won't lose $6 million. For places like Prince George's County, they won't lose $7 million.

    The bill before us--the Every Student Succeeds Act--is good for all of Maryland's 874,514 students. It supports at-risk populations; empowers high quality choice for parents; and strengthens critical programs such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, STEM, education, accelerated learning, and afterschool programming.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act is good for all of Maryland's 59,315 teachers. Our teachers have to deal with children who have so many problems--whether suffering from a peanut allergy or asthma--and need so much help. That is why I fought to make sure that Federal funds can be used to provide for the coordination of integrated services like vision and hearing screenings and other support services to help improve student academic achievement.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act helps all of 1,446 Maryland public schools. While we maintain annual statewide assessments in reading and math, we allow States to develop and implement other mechanisms that reduces overtesting and ``racing to the test.'' In addition to supporting the large-scale changes in the Every Student Succeeds Act, I am especially proud to see that this compromise includes other provisions I fought for. This bill ensures that States continue to measure how students are performing at each level of achievement. This bill will make sure that States find ways to assist school districts in addressing the needs of gifted and talented students. It will also make sure that teachers get the professional development they need and deserve in order to better identify gifted kids.

    I am pleased that the bill before us also recognizes the vital role that school nurses play. They truly are a valuable member of a school's education team and should be recognized as such. Because of this bill, schools nurses will now be eligible to receive ESEA professional development funds.

    This bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, ensures that at-risk kids get the support they need in order to succeed. It supports teachers and principals in providing high quality instruction. It supports States and school districts in turning around low-performing schools and closing achievement gaps. This bill is a down payment on our children's future and on our Nation's future.

    I urge my colleagues to support the bipartisan progress that has been made here and vote to send a strong bill to the President's desk that will improve our schools and put all of our children on a path to success.

    Assessment Security Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I wish to engage in a colloquy with the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Alexander, to clarify questions that have arisen since S. 1177 was introduced.

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