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Educators: Students need fair, flexible, and innovative federal education law

NEA welcomes progress on reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act

WASHINGTON - June 04, 2013 -

The Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), today took the first step toward reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Commonly known as No Child Left Behind and last reauthorized in 2001, ESEA defines the federal role in K-12 education. For more than a decade, educators have been sounding the alarm about the law’s unintended consequences and its overreliance on test scores to label and punish students and schools.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement:

“Schools around America are winding down for the summer but Congressional efforts to rewrite the federal education law are just getting underway in Washington. We welcome this renewed effort. Students, parents, and educators know the law isn’t working. That’s why there’s been such strong push back—from Seattle to Rhode Island to Florida —against high-stakes standardized testing schemes ushered in by the law. The time has come for Congress to craft a fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 law that leads to real sustainable change for our children, while keeping the ESEA goals of equity and shared responsibility front and center.

“We believe all children deserve great schools, and Congress must make the investments so that we are ensuring opportunity for all children, not exacerbating current inequities. ESEA must address existing inequities in public education that harm students and communities, particularly students and communities of color.

“We are accountable for student success, and we must ensure that ESEA changes its current focus from punishing students, schools and educators to helping those most in need. Every student deserves committed, caring and qualified educators in her or his classroom. In order for the law to work, we must empower educators so they can focus on what’s important—student learning and achievement. Educators spend their lives and careers teaching—and protecting—their students. ESEA must respect educators by empowering us and allowing us to focus on the kind of instruction that students need.

“As education advocates, our top priority is to make sure that what happens in Washington actually works for students and educators in classrooms and schools across the country. We thank Chairman Harkin for his leadership and look forward to working with him and Senators from both sides of the aisle to find common sense, bipartisan solutions to fix the flawed law.”

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The National Education Association ( is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


Miguel Gonzalez, 202-822-7823