09.25.18

Murray Slams DeVos’ Implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act, Urges Republicans to Work to Uphold Bipartisan Law and Key Equity Protections for Students

At Senate HELP Committee hearing on implementation of ESSA, Senator Murray stressed the negative impacts on students due to Secretary DeVos’ approval of state plans that do not comply with all of the law’s equity guardrails 

 

Murray also said DeVos’ decision to allow states to use federal funds to purchase guns and firearm training will make students less safe

 

Murray: “[Our federal education law] should be about providing every student no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents’ make—the opportunity to better themselves through education.”

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S REMARKS HERE***

 

Washington, D.C – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, slammed Secretary DeVos’ implementation of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In her opening remarks, Senator Murray criticized Secretary DeVos approving state plans that do not comply with all of ESSA’s equity guardrails—and the negative impacts on our most vulnerable students as a result. Senator Murray also voiced concerns with Secretary DeVos’ lack of transparency in waiving the simplified assessment cap for 23 states, meaning too many students with disabilities are being held to low standards. Senator Murray called on Chairman Alexander to work with her to uphold the bipartisan agreement made in ESSA to work to address these concerns.

 

Senator Murray also criticized Secretary DeVos’ decision to allow states to use federal funds to purchase guns or firearm training for teachers, and urged Chairman Alexander to invite Secretary DeVos, or another Department of Education official, to testify on this issue.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“And even worse, this idea is dangerous—and it could put the lives of all of children and school staff at risk. You only need to hear one story of a teacher accidentally firing a gun in a classroom, or leaving it where a child can get access to it, or threatening a child with a gun, to know we need fewer firearms in schools—not more.

 

“Secretary DeVos has also approved plans that fail to properly identify schools that need help or support getting back on track. And here’s what this all really means for students, schools, and communities. Without properly counting the success of groups of students who have historically struggled in a school’s overall performance, a school may look like it’s succeeding—even if all the African American students, or all the students with disabilities, for example—are falling behind.”

 

“There are clearly a lot of problems with the way Secretary DeVos is implementing our bipartisan K-12 education law. And I hope today, rather than focusing solely on the things we like, that we do the hard work and address the very real concerns with the way this law is being implemented—and focus on the students that will be impacted.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Chairman Alexander. And thank you to all our witnesses for being here today.

 

“Before we dig into the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act—I want to touch on an issue that is on the mind of every teacher, parent, and student, and should be a focus on this Committee: the growing number of deadly school shootings around the country.

 

“In the aftermath of these shootings, we should be doing everything we can to address gun violence and make our schools safer. Unfortunately—Secretary DeVos is heading in the opposite direction. 

 

“Despite outcry from students, parents, teachers, and members of Congress, she is going to allow schools to use federal funds to purchase guns or firearm training for teachers. This is not what Congress intended when we passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. 

 

“And some Republicans—like Congressman Cole—have made that point clear. Congressman Cole said, ‘It's already against the law. I think it's pretty clear, if you read the Every Student Succeeds Act.’

  

“And even worse, this idea is dangerous—and it could put the lives of all of children and school staff at risk. You only need to hear one story of a teacher accidentally firing a gun in a classroom, or leaving it where a child can get access to it, or threatening a child with a gun, to know we need fewer firearms in schools—not more.

 

“Now—Secretary DeVos is claiming that Congress did not give her the authority to stop this. But Republicans and Democrats in Congress are telling her the opposite—that she absolutely does—and should—put an end to this reckless and irresponsible idea.

 

“But if Secretary DeVos refuses to uphold her responsibility to keep students safe, Mr. Chairman, I hope you will work with me to make it abundantly clear to Secretary DeVos that this is not what we intended, and direct her to do the right thing.

 

“While it is on Secretary DeVos to act—our hands are not tied. We can work together—just as we did to pass ESSA—to stop this. And finally on this point, Mr. Chairman, I want to express my support for Senator Murphy and every other Democrat on this Committee’s request for Secretary DeVos to testify in front of the Committee on ESSA and gun safety.

 

“Twenty months into this Administration, neither Secretary DeVos—nor anyone from her Department—has testified in front of this Committee. Now I understand that Secretary DeVos may not want come testify, but given the urgency of the issue of school safety—Mr. Chairman—I hope we can remedy this as soon as possible.

“Mr. Chairman—on numerous occasions—I have expressed my concerns with Secretary DeVos’ approval of state plans that do not comply with the law.

 

“I have voiced these concerns in this Committee room—and in private conversations with you. And I am disappointed that you have refused to honor the agreement made in the room and work with me to resolve the issues with Secretary DeVos’ implementation of our bipartisan law.  

 

“Because all but one plan has been approved, today I want to focus on the real life impacts of these flawed state plans. Secretary DeVos has approved state accountability systems that do not take into account the performance of certain groups of students, including low income students,

students of color, students with disabilities, and English Learners.

 

“Democrats voted for this law—in part—because of these requirements to ensure equity. Yet they are being disregarded by this Administration.

 

“Secretary DeVos has also approved plans that fail to properly identify schools that need help or support getting back on track. And here’s what this all really means for students, schools, and communities. Without properly counting the success of groups of students who have historically struggled in a school’s overall performance, a school may look like it’s succeeding—even if all the African American students, or all the students with disabilities, for example—are falling behind.

 

“Without properly identifying three separate categories of schools in need of support or improvement, a school that is in need of a little bit of support will never be identified—and rather than getting the help it needs—that school’ s problems may get worse, and the school could fall further and further behind.

 

“These are not theoretical. Under the plans Secretary DeVos has approved—students will fall through the cracks and schools will be left worse off.

 

“At their core, these provisions are about providing equity in our schools. Equity is not easy. We have to put in the hard work, we have to ask schools to put in the hard work, and we have to ask students to put in the hard work—to get a strong education and set themselves up for success.

 

“But we have to do our part—we have to ensure Secretary DeVos is implementing the law we agreed to—to give these students a fair shot.

 

“Our federal education law shouldn’t be focused solely on making states lives’ easier. It should be about providing every student no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make—the opportunity to better themselves through education.

 

“Finally—I want to touch on one more issue with Secretary DeVos’ implementation now that she has approved all but one state plan.

 

“When we worked together on ESSA—we set out to build on the strong steps that were being made to hold states accountable for the learning of students with disabilities. I made it a priority to ensure we were not leaving students with the most significant cognitive disabilities behind by limiting the number of children who could be tested using a simplified assessment.

 

“While it’s only appropriate to use this test with about one-half of one-percent of students—we set the cap at one-percent.

 

“This is important, because if too many students are taking this simplified test, it means that too many students are being taught to lower standards, and that too many students with disabilities are being subjected to low-expectations.

 

“So it’s concerning that Secretary DeVos has waived the one-percent cap for 23 states, but has not made to make the wavier requests and supporting documents public.

 

“Transparency is important—and parents and Congress have a right to this information. So I hope we can address this issue today, and I hope to hear from the states here today.

 

“There are clearly a lot of problems with the way Secretary DeVos is implementing our bipartisan K-12 education law. And I hope today, rather than focusing solely on the things we like, that we do the hard work and address the very real concerns with the way this law is being implemented—and focus on the students that will be impacted.

 

“Thank you.

 

 

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