Shavar Jeffries Sends ESSA Letter of Support to House Education Committee Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member Bobby Scott

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

December 2, 2015

In a letter to House Education Committee Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member Bobby Scott, DFER’s President Shavar Jeffries writes:

December 1, 2015

Dear Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Scott:

We at Democrats for Education Reform write to commend your work on the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. This legislation represents a long-overdue overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act. A considerable body of research shows that the policies under NCLB tying student outcome data to action have helped improve student achievement and boost high school graduation rates and driven additional resources to schools most in need of them. The benefits have been particularly marked for those who have been the intended beneficiaries of this law throughout its entire 50-year history, including students of color, students from low-income families, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

Nonetheless, the law has become increasingly unworkable. Those children who were in kindergarten when this law expired will soon be entering high school. It is time for us to stop kicking the can down the road and to come together to find common ground, even when that entails, as it must, some degree of compromise. Under your leadership, we are now at a point where finding that common ground is possible, an outcome that has eluded every previous reauthorization effort. The chances for political cooperation and better policy are higher now than they ever have been and, in our estimation, than they would be under the next Congress or the next Administration.

While we have not advocated for maintaining the rigid federal requirements of current law, we think this bill swings the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. We recognize, however, that your job entails consideration of multiple points of view and resolving conflicting and strongly held opinions. We have worked closely with advocacy, business, civil rights, and disability groups on a range of issues, particularly those involving student assessment, school improvement, resource equity, and public school choice. This conference report incorporates significant improvements on those issues as compared to both the House and Senate bills.

We particularly appreciate that in several key instances, you made these improvements according to the underlying purpose of ESEA as a civil rights law that provides safeguards and remedies for those treated unfairly by state and local government, and that you made these changes despite countervailing pressures from some of the same special interests responsible for those inequities. We believe there is important role for federal government in education and look forward to the U.S. Department of Education pursuing an aggressive role to protect historically disadvantaged groups of students in cooperation with state and local governments. This bill will help maximize the chances that those partnerships will yield benefits for those students who are the law’s intended beneficiaries.

No single law, at any level of government, is ever perfect. No single law or policy will make our public education system as great or as equitable as it needs to be. Our work on this bill will not end with final passage. In fact, once the bill is signed into law, the most important work will begin. We have never seen a stronger, broader, or more diverse coalition – in and outside of government – pushing for federal education policies that put the interests of children and families ahead of all others. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of that effort. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts with key leaders in Congress, with this Administration, and with advocacy, business, civil rights and disability groups to ensure successful implementation of this new law at the federal, state, and local level.

Again, thank you for your bipartisan leadership on this important legislation.


Shavar Jeffries, President
Democrats for Education Reform 

To see the Business Civil Rights Coalition Statement of Support, see here. 
To see the Civil Rights and Education Coalition Statement of Support, see here.