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NEA President comments on 45th anniversary of ESEA

Congress must stay true to the original intent of education law

WASHINGTON - April 11, 2010 -

Forty-five years ago, a sweeping education bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson that aimed to provide every student—regardless of their background—equal access to a great public school that could help them see a brighter future. The National Education Association and its 3.2 million members commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“I grew up in a small farming community in rural Iowa where education was so highly valued that by the time I was in the seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be a math teacher.  Unfortunately, not all students had access to the same kind of educational opportunities that I did.

“On April 11, 1965, when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law at a school in rural Texas, I was a freshman in college studying to be a teacher. While I knew this was a historic achievement, I could not have imagined the impact this critical federal education law would have on millions of children, including many of the students I would teach during my 23 years as a high school math teacher.

“When ESEA was passed in 1965, it gave a boost to students who were being denied equal opportunities, and it gave hope to students that they too could experience the American dream.

“Over the last 45 years, especially under No Child Left Behind, many of the promises of ESEA have faded. When the law was signed, there was no competition for funds.  Federal money went directly to where it was needed most.

“We must build on the original promise of ESEA to ensure that all children have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. When we are talking about our students and their education, there should be no losers.  We believe the federal government has a vital role to play in guaranteeing that all students have access to the services and supports they need to succeed.”

For more information about NEA’s principles for the reauthorization of ESEA, visit

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers  (202) 270-5333 cell,