Closer to a new federal K-12 education law

by Melanie Anderson   •  

The long overdue reauthorization of the nation’s overarching federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), appears to be moving forward. On Nov. 30, the newest bipartisan agreement, The Every Student Succeeds Act, was released by House and Senate conferees.

The draft bill contains many ideas that Opportunity Nation supports. The bill underscores the importance of comprehensive services needed to keep students engaged in their education, such as apprenticeships and financial literacy, by providing opportunities for communities to establish or expand these activities. Both bills also include pay-for-performance or pay-for-success initiatives as an allowable use of federal funds, which we believe would encourage efficiency and effectiveness. The bill also strengthens accountability requirements that were lacking in earlier versions of ESEA reauthorization bills.

While we are pleased with the progress on a critically important education bill, we were disappointed to see that a bipartisan amendment that was included in an earlier Senate bill based on the American Dream Accounts Act that supports college savings accounts for low-income children paired with financial literacy and support for families was not included in the latest version of the ESEA bill. Research shows that low-income students with college savings accounts in their name are at least three times more likely to attend postsecondary institutions and are four times more likely to complete and receive a postsecondary degree or credential.

The inclusion of college savings accounts paired with financial literacy support would have been a critical step toward ensuring that all students have access to postsecondary education and training after high school. We hope that Congress will consider this important legislation when it turns its attention the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) next year.

The Every Student Succeeds Act would authorize ESEA for just four more years, as opposed to the usual five year time frame. That gives the next president and a new Congress the opportunity to revisit the law.

We celebrate the progress towards the finish line and applaud the bipartisan leadership that Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) have shown. We look forward to working with them on including the American Dream Accounts Act as Congress gears up to reauthorize HEA.

The House is expected to vote on passage this week with the Senate to follow next week. President Obama is expected to sign the Every Student Succeeds bill before the end of the year.

Melanie Anderson Melanie Anderson is the Director of Government and External Affairs at Opportunity Nation. She directs the campaign’s government relations and policy efforts. Read Melanie's bio.

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