AASA Overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act

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Late last month, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team shared a summary of the framework and preliminary call to action related to the proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In the two weeks that have since passed, Congress has released the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to reauthorize ESEA that reconciles the differences between the House and Senate proposals voted on earlier this summer.

We are pleased to report that the summary of the framework was overwhelmingly accurate in its depiction of what would be in the actual bill. This memo is an overview of the legislation and is designed to both inform you and support any outreach you may do to your Congressional delegation as both the House and Senate are expected to consider ESSA before adjourning in the middle of the month. Do not be fooled by the similarity in format to the previous memo. While there is a lot of the same information, there is enough new information (including further detail and clarification) to warrant a complete read of the memo. 

TOPLINE: ESSA is a significant improvement over current law. It takes the pendulum of federal overreach and prescription—rampant in current law—and returns autonomy and flexibility to the state/local level/ With this flexibility comes great responsibility, as state and local education agencies will have a much more explicit say in the structure—and ultimate success—of their accountability workbooks. ESSA is the epitome of compromise, reconciling differences between the very partisan (Republican) House bill and the bi-partisan Senate bill. In reconciling those differences, a very basic way to look at this framework is as ‘somewhere in between a very conservative House bill and the moderate Senate compromise’. As AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said in his press release about the framework, “We applaud Congressional leaders for moving such a bipartisan framework. One of the biggest benchmarks of bipartisan legislation may be when everyone is a little unhappy, because nobody got everything they wanted. By that metric alone, this framework lays a solid foundation for a successful conference process.”  

AASA has endorsed ESSA, which you can read about in our endorsing statement. Domenech addressed the critical balance in ESSA, “The federal government has a very critical role to play in federal education policy, and that is to support and strengthen—not dictate and prescribe to—our nation’s public schools. ESSA is the embodiment of this very policy, preserving very important federal policy cornerstones like equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but doing so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.” EdWeek did a great write up on how various groups are responding to ESSA, and cited AASA Past President David Pennington (Ponca City Schools, OK). 

Timeline and Next Steps: The House of Representatives could vote as early as this Wednesday, and the Senate could vote as early as next week. This sets up the possibility of President Obama signing the bill into law before the end of 2015.  “Next steps” are outlined in the AASA call to action, available here

You can read the full ESSA analaysis and overview here.

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