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Murray: Implementing ESSA’s Guardrails is "Essential," as the Landmark Law Turns 5 Amid Widespread Learning Loss Due to COVID Pandemic

Murray: “As this pandemic rages on, it’s essential that we not only give schools the resources they need to weather this storm—but also ensure states and school districts can carry out this critical law.”


(Washington, D.C.) – On the 5th Anniversary of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) being signed into law, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on the need to ensure ESSA’s accountability and transparency requirements are carried out in light of widening inequities and student achievement gaps due to COVID-19.


Senator Murray, an architect of this landmark legislation that fixed the No Child Left Behind law, slammed the Trump Administration for completely undermining the intent of the law, highlighted her plans to work with the Biden Administration to correct course, and laid out additional steps that need to be taken in order to address racial and socioeconomic inequities within our education system and ensure every single student has access to a high-quality, public education.


No matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make, every single child in this country deserves a high-quality, public education from pre-K through 12th grade—and passing ESSA was an important step in making that a reality.


“COVID-19 has thrown students, parents, and educators into a kind of uncertainty and chaos we’ve simply never seen before. As this pandemic rages on, it’s essential that we not only give schools the resources they need to weather this storm—but also ensure states and school districts can carry out this critical law.


“Unlike the Trump Administration and Secretary DeVos, who undermined our efforts every step of the way, I look forward to working with the incoming Biden Administration to provide states and school districts with the necessary guidance to carry out the law’s accountability and reporting requirements in order to ensure every single student has equitable access to a high-quality, public education.  But it’s clear that getting ‘back to normal’ isn’t enough.


“This pandemic has highlighted the existing inequities and systemic racism students across this country deal with every day—inequities that have left too many students behind, including students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, and students from families who have low-incomes. We need to commit to confronting systemic racism and inequality and address school funding, racial and socioeconomic school integration, access to high-quality and rigorous curriculum, discipline, campus sexual assault, the use of seclusion and restraint, bullying and harassment, and more. This is a conversation that is long overdue, and one that I’m looking forward to having with Democrats, Republicans and the incoming Biden Administration.”  


The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) is a landmark bipartisan bill that fixed the broken No Child Left Behind Act. It took major strides to ensure accountability systems are based on multiple measures, invest in improving and expanding access to preschool programs, enact strong federal guardrails and ensure all students have access to a high-quality education, help states improve low-performing schools, and more.  


Among the many additional major steps to better support students, the legislation included historic investments in early education, emphasized the importance of ensuring all voices have a seat at the table by requiring states to consult governors, members of state legislatures, teachers, parents, tribes, and more, as they develop education plans, and increased educational supports for children in foster care.


However, over the past four years, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos failed to hold states accountable for meeting the law’s requirements. Specifically, Secretary DeVos approved state plans that explicitly violated the law, neglected to fully enforce transparency requirements that were put in place in order to provide parents with more information about how their children’s schools are doing, and inappropriately issued waivers of ESSA’s requirements intended to protect students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.


More information on Senator Murray  K-12 Education record:


  • In March 2020, Senator Murray introduced the Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act to support students, educators, and other school staff as the spread of coronavirus continues to cause school closures across the country.


  • In March 2020, Senator Murray successfully fought for the inclusion of $13.5?billion for an Education Stabilization Fund to help K-12 schools respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by providing online learning, schools meals, mental health services and more to their students in the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.


  • In June 2020, Senator Murray introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA), a $430 billion dollar bill to address the national child care and education crises and provide relief to students, families, schools, and educators across the country during this pandemic.


  • In December 2019, Senator Murray introduced the AHEAD Act, to help address the many challenges that youth facing homeless and housing insecurity must overcome as they pursue an education by creating a federal grant program to help encourage housing authorities and school districts to work together to address child and family homelessness.