Leaving Children Behind

Congressional Republicans’ education bills could harm our most at-risk students

Congressional Republicans’ Education Bills Could Harm Our Most At-Risk Students

This week House and Senate Republicans are working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—also known as No Child Left Behind. Reauthorization of our largest K-12 education law presents a rare opportunity for Congress to ensure that all students—regardless of zip code, background, or family income levels—can receive a quality public education. Unfortunately, this afternoon the House passed H.R. 5 its version of the reauthorization bill that cuts federal funding from our most at-risk students and brings us a step backwards to the days when our most underserved communities were ignored.

This letter, written by the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights and signed my more than 50 other organizations, outlines how H.R. 5—also known as the Student Success Act—undermines important federal protections for some of our most vulnerable students.

The most egregious provision included in the House bill is a “portability” provision, which eliminates the targeting of federal funding to schools and districts with the highest concentrations of students living in poverty. That means federal funding that goes to schools with the most low-income students would flow out of those districts and into richer districts. This could cause the most impoverished districts to experience a federal resource cut as large as 74 percent, while the most affluent districts could receive an average of more than $290 dollars per student. The graph below shows how harmful that could be and more on portability can be found here.


The Senate is also working on its considerably more moderate version of ESEA reauthorization this week, known as the Every Child Achieves Act. The Senate’s bill takes important steps to curb over testing and maintains investments in research-based innovation. This afternoon the Senate also adopted an important amendment that allows schools to use Title 1 funds to create fiscal assistance teams designed to help schools spend their money efficiently.

The Senate bill does considerably more to help vulnerable students, but more should be done to ensure it fulfills its role as a civil rights law. And the bill is far from final. As it stands the Senate bill does not include a portability provision, but a portability amendment will be considered soon, which brings the potential damage one step closer to reality.

BOTTOM LINE: The opportunity to receive a quality public education should not be determined by a child’s zip code. HR 5, passed by House today, is a major step backward to a time when federal funding was inequitably distributed and our most vulnerable communities were ignored.

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