Skip to content

Harkin Statement at HELP Committee Roundtable, "Beyond NCLB: Views on the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act"

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Today’s roundtable will focus on moving beyond NCLB—the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and towards reauthorization of the law for the needs of the 21st Century. Over the last two years the Committee has held 10 hearings on the full range of issues covered under the law. I have also held numerous stakeholder meetings and participated in lengthy negotiations with my Republican colleagues, which resulted in a bill that was voted out of Committee with bipartisan support a little over two weeks ago.

“I believe the Committee’s bipartisan bill takes several important steps forward by:

  • resetting our national goal from students attaining “proficiency” to ensuring that students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career;
  • closing the “comparability loophole” and ensuring that Title I schools get their fair share of federal resources;
  •  incentivizing states and districts to develop rigorous teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, with the goal of continuous instructional improvement; and  
  • providing a laser-like focus on turning around the bottom five percent of schools and our nation’s “dropout factories”—high schools that graduate less than 60 percent of their students—so that real change occurs in these schools, and the students who attend them have their academic trajectory set on a new, improved course.

“Today we will hear from key stakeholders in this debate who are impacted by the education laws we pass in Washington. I am eager to hear each of their perspectives on how, through this reauthorization, we can provide states, districts and schools with the tools they need to help all students succeed. I think we have provided some of those tools in our bill, but I am sure there is more that can be done.

“One thing I know for certain is that current law is not bringing about the significant improvements in student achievement that our country needs and our children deserve. We must reauthorize to get out from under the stifling and ineffective No Child Left Behind Act.

“I expect our roundtable participants will discuss things they like about NCLB and our bill, and things they would like to see changed. The goal today is to have an open discussion that informs the ongoing debate on ESEA reauthorization. I thank all of our participants for being with us today.

“I will now turn to Senator Mike Enzi, the ranking member of our Committee who has been a strong partner in our work on ESEA reauthorization, for his opening statement before introducing our panelists.”