ESSA Preserves Critical Role of Federal Government, Hearing Confirms

WASHINGTON – TODAY, the Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Passed in 2015, ESSA was the long-awaited replacement for No Child Left Behind, and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is a civil rights law that governs public K-12 education and directs states and school districts to take action to close persistent achievement gaps. When Congress passed ESSA, it ensured the civil rights legacy of the original ESEA through its inclusion of strong federal guardrails to maintain high standards and promote educational opportunity for historically disadvantaged students.

“The law contains important requirements – requirements Republicans and Democrats all agreed to when we voted for ESSA – and those requirements must be meaningful,” said Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03). “ESSA is not – and never has been – a free for all, and it is the responsibility of the Department of Education, as articulated by Congress in ESSA, to carefully scrutinize the quality of state plans. When evaluating a state’s plan, the Department must provide consistent feedback, and remain mindful of the law's equity guardrails, and that means rejecting plans that fail to close persistent achievement gaps.”

Phillip Lovell, the Vice President of Policy Development and Government Relations at the Alliance for Excellent Education, served as the Democratic witness. Lovell testified on how ESSA preserves the critical role of the federal government in ensuring every child receives an equal education.

“ESSA is fundamentally a civil rights law with many federal requirements designed to promote educational equity and prepare all students for postsecondary education and the workforce,” said Lovell. “ESSA provides states with significant flexibility when it comes to how they achieve equity and excellence, but ESSA is not a blank check. Both states and the Department must implement and enforce all of ESSA’s equity-focused requirements.”

Lovell also highlighted how the proposed cuts in President Trump’s budget and those in the Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor, Health And Human Services, and Education will jeopardize the implementation of ESSA.

“Cuts proposed by the Trump administration and House Labor-H committee will undermine the law before states have the chance to implement it,” continued Lovell. “ESSA provides states with flexibility and responsibility. But responsibility without resources will not lead to results. By freezing funding for Title I, under-funding Title IV, Part A, and proposing to eliminate or reduce funding for professional development, literacy, and after-school programs—on top of proposed cuts to Medicaid that jeopardize the services schools provide to the nation’s most vulnerable children—states are being handcuffed at the exact moment they have supposedly been given freedom.” 

Press Contact

Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853