House Passes Controversial Education Bill
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act, which is an updated version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act bill (formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act) that outlines all of America’s federal education policies. Unfortunately, the bill’s reception has been almost as muddled as its ever-changing name; it was condemned by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and opposed by advocacy organizations including the National Education Association.
According to the Council for Exceptional Children, the House’s bill “reduces accountability for students with disabilities…; eliminates highly qualified teacher provisions; lacks focus on professional development; reduces, capps (sic) and eliminates education funding; promotes privatization of education; fails to include the Keeping All Students Safe Act; and ignores the needs of high-ability students.” Secretary Duncan echoed these concerns, noting that the Student Success Act “marks a retreat from high standards for all students and would virtually eliminate accountability for the learning of historically underserved students – a huge step backward for efforts to improve academic achievement. It would lock in major cuts to education funding at a time when continued investments in education are the only way we can remain competitive on the world stage.” No Democrats voted for the House bill, and all but 12 Republicans voted yes.
The version that passed out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Senate last month does include important protections for vulnerable students, and lays out a vastly different vision of elementary and secondary education from the House Act. Importantly, the Senate’s version contained LGBT-friendly provisions that create a national definition of bullying and provide LGBT students the same legal recourse as other targets of discrimination. Click here to tell your member of Congress that these are important policies to you in any legislation moving forward. The Senate bill has not yet received a vote on the floor.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read verses that are familiar from our recitation of the Sh’ma: “Impress these words upon your heart….and teach them to your children – reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up, and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates so that you and your children may live.” This passage helps us realize and remember that educating our youth is at the very core of the Jewish tradition – and that education is broader that multiplication worksheets and spelling tests. Indeed, the sort of teaching Moses commanded infuses our lives in deep and inescapable ways. It is this sort of education – education that is broad and holistic, that cares about hearts as well as minds – that will truly ensure that we and our children not simply live, but thrive.