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December 3, 2015 - ESEA/ESSA Has Overwhelmingly Passed the U.S. House: What Can We Expect in the Senate?

Yesterday's Vote

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (aka ESEA; current authorization title, No Child Left Behind, or NCLB) passed the U.S. House with no difficulty yesterday evening, with only 64 representatives voting against it. House members were given a mere three days to review the conferenced bill's 1,061 pages and its labyrinth of implications. It was not nearly enough time for most representatives to look past the hype created by those pushing the bill, delve into the actual language, and know what they were actually voting to implement. 

Considering the misleading PR around the conferenced bill and the high-pressure tactics used to ensure yes votes, that even 64 members stood up and said no is a testament to your efforts--to engaged parents, teachers, citizen activists, and taxpayers across the country. With some help from some dedicated folks on the ground in Washington over the last few days, many in the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), in particular, began to see that the bill was not what was being touted. In the end, 80 percent of the HFC, in fact, said no to EASA/ESSA.

Citizen-Activist Impact on the U.S. House

While educational freedom lost in the House yesterday, be encouraged that we made 38 converts in the three short days before the vote. Together, we changed minds. We are an effective force. This is precisely the reason that leadership needed to rush this bill through. They knew that they couldn't afford a legitimate review process--that even if their representatives didn't look closely at the language, the people would. Leadership was, in fact, desperate to ensure that House members could vote only on what they were told was in the bill, not on hard knowledge. Imagine what we could have pulled off with a proper 60 days...

Our heartfelt thanks go out to a handful of allies who gave up additional time, energy, and other resources to be on the ground in Washington, marking up the bill and communicating their findings to House members face-to-face or by phone appointment. The conversations they had and the documentation they assembled--paired with our tweets, phone calls, Facebook messages, and emails--were instrumental in reaching legislators with facts and implications concerning ESSA's language. While this list is almost certainly incomplete, recognition should go, in particular, to:

  • Erin Tuttle, Hoosiers against Common Core
  • Emmett McGroarty, American Principles Project
  • Jane Robbins, American Principles Project
  • Dr. Karen Effrem, MD, Education Liberty Watch & Florida Coalition against Common Core
  • Glyn Wright, Eagle Forum
  • Kevin Baird, Eagle Forum
  • Dr. Mary Byrne, Missouri Coalition against Common Core/Truth in American Education
  • Carol Allen, East Penn School Board Member, reading specialist

We also want to thank our friends at United Opt Out National for taking an unwavering stand against ESSA. In particular, our gratitude goes to Morna McDermott, a UOO co-founder and an essayist in our publication Common Ground on Common Core. Her blogging on competency-based education initiatives, particularly in relationship to student data, provided another invaluable tool in enlightening and informing people of a wide variety of political and ideological stripes. 

The Lay of the Land in the Senate

Information we have right now suggests that the vote on ESEA/ESSA will take place in the Senate this coming Monday, December 7th. It's not much time, but every minute prior to that vote can be leveraged to expose and publicize more problems with this damaging bill. We strongly encourage you to be tweeting, Facebooking, calling, and emailing your state's federal senators.

The good news is that there are fewer people in the Senate to convince. The bad news is that they'll likely be even more difficult to convince than their colleagues in the House. The language of the conferenced bill leans heavily toward the original Senate reauthoirization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). As such, the tendency of most senators will almost certainly be to accept the conferenced version without much--or any--question. 

A handful of senators voted against ECAA a few months ago. They included:

  • Blunt (R-MO) @RoyBlunt
  • Booker (D-NJ) @CoryBooker
  • Crapo (R-ID) @MikeCrapo
  • Cruz (R-TX) @SenTedCruz
  • Daines (R-MT) @SteveDaines
  • Flake (R-AZ) @JeffFlake
  • Lee (R-UT) @SenMikeLee
  • Moran (R-KS) @JerryMoran
  • Murphy (D-CT) @ChrisMurphyCT
  • Paul (R-KY) @RandPaul
  • Risch (R-ID) @SenatorRisch
  • Rubio (R-FL) @MarcoRubio
  • Sasse (R-NE) @SenSasse
  • Scott (R-SC) @SenatorTimScott
  • Shelby (R-AL) @SenShelby
  • Vitter (R-LA) @DavidVitter
  • Warren (D-MA) @SenWarren

Warren and Booker are now likely to vote for ESEA/ESSA, in alignment with their Democratic colleagues in the House. They should be pressed not to do so.

Just as we urged in relationship to the House vote, please continue to leverage all tools available (see our Dec.1st post for possibilities) to enlist the assistance of state legislators. We need as many of them as possible awake and using their influence with their federal counterparts to urge no votes on ESEA/ESSA.

REMEMBER: The last reauthorization of ESEA, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has been wildly unpopular with the American people. Most legislators who voted for it would prefer to forget that they did so. The message from us needs to be that a yes vote on ESEA/ESSA will be no less problematic for them

Remaining silent or passive on this vote would allow Senate leadership to say with some credibility that they had at least our tacit consent. We cannot allow them that talking point. Should they choose to continue violating or rights, placing our children at risk, and destroying true education nationwide, there must be a clear record that they did it wholly against our will.

We will continue to provide updates, new tools, valuable articles, etc, as they become available between now and Monday's vote. Please keep checking back on this post for additional information. If you have anything for us that you believe may be relevant, as always, please tag us on Twitter or Facebook or reach out to us here on the website via our contact page

Do not lay down.

Cede no ground on matters of educational freedom.

Never budge an inch.

Resounding Books can and will discuss next steps with you and other activists and experts once the Senate vote has been taken.

Till then, we fight on with you to #StopESEA.

The motto remains the same: RETREAT IS DEFEAT.