Here’s Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), defending the accountability amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act that he supported along with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):
I’m distressed today that this body will put into place a piece of educational legislation that ignores those children who this original legislation years ago was dedicated to serving. We cannot be a great nation if we have parts of our country, be they neighborhoods or schools, that fail to experience what should be the bedrock of our country: equal opportunity, a great education, the opportunity through your grit, sweat and hard work that will result in success.
According to The Seventy Four, the amendment would require “states to identify and intervene in the 5 percent of lowest-performing schools; schools where less than two-thirds of students graduate; and schools where minority, English language learners, poor and disabled students fail to meet state achievement targets.”
This is an amendment ardently advocated for by the nation’s major civil rights groups. It’s also an amendment that is ardently opposed by American Federation Teachers and National Education Association. The final vote was 43-54, which is interesting all in itself: Thirty-five Democrats found the courage to vote “yes” on a bill that the NEA particularly has set as a litmus test for BFF status.
The unions’ position provoked a fiery blog post, Lies, Lies, Damn Lies: Enough With NEA’s Lies About “Test and Punish,” from the always excellent Kati Haycock of Education Trust. She writes:
Clearly, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wants to claim the mantle of civil rights and social justice—words that are sprinkled throughout her speeches—while simultaneously freeing her members of the responsibilities of improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children.
All hope is not lost. Civil rights advocates—and anyone who believes that states should be required to intervene in low-performing schools—will be watching when the Senate convenes its final conference today.
As Lauren Camera of Education Week notes, Democrats didn’t think the accountability amendment would pass anyway, “[but] they are trying to cobble together a strong showing of support with 35 or more Democrats voting in favor to make it clear that strengthening accountability is a top priority going into conference with the House on its bill.”