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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

CONFERENCE REPORT ON S. 1177, EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT

December 2, 2015
Floor Statements

 Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to endorse the conference report on S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

   We have certainly come a long way since we were on the floor debating H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, earlier this year. I had sincere objections to much that was found in H.R. 5, but thanks to the commitment to work together to try to fashion a decent bill with Chairman Kline and our counterparts in the Senate, Senator Alexander and Senator Murray, along with the many long nights from our respective staffs, we found a way to produce a conference report that balances the desire for more localized decisionmaking with the need for Federal oversight to ensure equity for underserved students.

   This conference report is the embodiment of what we can do when we work together in Washington--a workable compromise that does not force either side to desert its core beliefs.

   Mr. Speaker, the modern Federal role in elementary and secondary education began with the promise in Brown v. Board of Education when a unanimous Supreme Court held that, in 1954, ``it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education'' and that ``such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.''

   Yet, despite the Brown decision, our education system has remained fundamentally unequal. That inequality is virtually guaranteed by the fact that we fund education basically by the real estate tax, guaranteeing that wealthier areas will have more funds than low-income areas.

   Across the Nation, gaps in equity persist. These gaps made it impossible to realize the opportunity of an education to all on equal terms because too many schools lacked the basic resources necessary for success. Too many schools failed children year after year.

   And these gaps disproportionately affected the politically disconnected: those in poverty, racial minorities, students with disabilities, and English language learners. This was unacceptable.

   In 1965, Congress addressed the inequality by passing the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA, which provided Federal money to address--and I quote from the original bill--``the special educational needs of children of low-income families and the impact that concentrations of low-income families have on the ability of local educational agencies to support adequate educational programs.''

   Simply put, Congress acknowledged that the right to an education is a civil right that knows no State boundaries and that the Federal Government has a role to ensure that all States are fulfilling their promises for all of America's children.

   The current iteration of the ESEA, No Child Left Behind, has run its course. It is so broken that the administration currently offers over 40 States waivers from its most unworkable provisions. This has not only created a great amount of uncertainty for students, parents, educators, and communities, but it has also resulted in uneven protections for underserved students and a lack of transparency for our communities.

   This conference report improves upon both the current law and the waivers, lives up to the promises of Brown and the intent of the original ESEA, and addresses the key challenges of No Child Left Behind.

   First, the Every Student Succeeds Act maintains high standards for all children but allows States to determine those standards in a way that requires those standards to be aligned with college readiness.

   The Every Student Succeeds Act requires States to put in place assessment, accountability, and improvement policies that will close the achievement gap but with locally designed, evidence-based strategies that meet the unique needs of students and schools.

   The conference report requires the transparent reporting of data to ensure that schools are responsible for not only the achievement of all of their students but also for the equitable allocation of resources to support student learning.

   The conference report helps States and school districts reduce the overuse of exclusionary policies by allowing the existing funding to be used for the Youth PROMISE plans, which is an issue I have been working on for many years.

   Youth PROMISE plans are comprehensive, evidence-based plans that are designed to address neighborhoods with significant crime, teen pregnancy, and other problems, and they are designed to reinvest savings generated by those plans to keep the plans working in the future.

   The conference report recognizes the importance of early learning, a priority of both red and blue States alike, by authorizing a program to assist States in improving the coordination, quality, improvement, and access to pre-K.

   Most importantly, while many of these new systems will be created by the States, under the conference report, the Federal Government maintains the ability to make sure that States and localities are living up to their commitments--that all students are being counted and that schools are being held accountable for their achievement.

   While this conference report is not the bill that I would have written alone--or that any Member would have written alone, for that matter--I have no doubt that this bipartisan conference report will make a positive difference in the lives of our Nation's children and will live up to the goal of the original ESEA: making an opportunity for an education available to all on equal terms. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes.''