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H.R. 5 -“The Letting Students Down Act” - Passes in House

Friday, July 19, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall
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Today, Friday, July 19, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives rolled back time with the passage of H.R. 5, The Student Success Act—legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently known as No Child Left Behind. The bill passed on a vote of 221 to 207. The last time the bill was reauthorized was 2002, and Congress has been trying to reauthorize the current statute since 2007.

The bill, introduced in early June by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) passed on the floor of House today, and out of the Education and Workforce Committee on June 19, eliminates many of the accountability requirements of the current No Child Left Behind Act and supposedly "returns responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts, and parents, while maintaining high expectations.”

COPAA joined our Civil Rights, Disability, Education and Teachers’ Group colleagues, including significantly the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Education Trust, The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), and The Collaboration for Promotion of Self-Determination (CPSD) in opposing this bill because it is a disaster for all marginalized students, especially students with disabilities. It completely undermines the core American value of equal opportunity in education embodied in Brown v. Board of Education. Specifically, it abandons accountability for the achievement and learning gains of subgroups of disadvantaged students who for generations have been harmed by low academic expectations.

H.R.5 allows unlimited alternate assessments on alternate standards for students with disabilities — this practice could force millions of students off the path to a regular high school diploma.

Here are the other top reasons this bill is a disaster (though there are more):

  1. H.R.5 lowers expectations for students with disabilities and turns the clock back to a time when students with disabilities were not expected to graduate from high school or attend college.
  2. H.R. 5 fails to Keep All Students Safe by placing a bright line limit on the use of restraints and seclusion in schools.
  3. H.R.5 contains a dangerous exception regarding a student taking the AA-AAS counting as a graduate. This provision is dangerous because it is ambiguous and therefore may undermine the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It can create confusion about the meaning of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), and raise ambiguity about whether being ‘counted’ as having graduated, would be perceived as allowing the termination of the delivery of FAPE, thereby reducing critical services and supports early in a child’s education as well as beyond the age of 18 for some eligible students.
  4. H.R.5 allows tracking of students, learning content that is not aligned with state standards or grade level content as early as third grade.
  5. H.R.5 eliminates the requirement to provide early intervention, targeted instruction and support for struggling students who are not making adequate academic gains.

H.R.5 is the first education bill to make it to the floor since 2001 — 12 years ago! — If enacted it will set the stage for how students with disabilities are treated for years to come.

While the Senate may consider Chairman Harkin’s bill, the process forward to a conference that would lead to a positive outcome is unlikely. If the tenets of HR 5 are included in a final bill, we would urge the President to veto it!!

We thank Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), for his emphatic speaking on behalf of the opposition, beginning with renaming the bill, "The Letting Students Down Act.” COPAA agrees that it’s important to remember the historical context for the need for ESEA [in 1965] after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education and unequivocally established that education in public schools is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. In discussing the history of ESEA, Rep. Miller highlighted that each reauthorization of the law has "moved education forward” and has helped to reduce the "soft bigotry of low expectations for disadvantaged students.” This bill does neither. We also sincerely thank Rep. Miller for offering an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute that would have reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to maintain the civil rights and equity focus of the law and to ensure all students have access to an education that prepares them for college and the workforce; and importantly, would have included the provisions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act, to set minimum federal standards for all children to be safe from the harms of restraints and the use of seclusion in schools.

We thank our Democratic champions who voted in opposition to H.R.5. We recognize Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for her clear and steadfast commitment to quality education for students with disabilities, however, we express disappointment in her support of the underlying bill.

We remain committed to working with Congress to pass a bill that maintains the civil rights and equity focus of the law; and that moves education forward to ensure that every student in America, including those with disability labels, have access to a high quality education that prepares them for college and the workforce.

Click here for more information on H.R.5, including Summary of Amendments

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