Local congressmen applaud passage of bipartisan education bill

Expected to be signed by Pres. Obama, law would return local control to states

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Chester County Congressmen Pat Meehan (Left, R-7) and Ryan Costello (Right, R-6) backed revisions to federal education laws, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

Two Chester County Congressman praised the passage by the U.S. House of Representatives, Wednesday, of legislation to replace 2001’s No Child Left Behind educational rules, returning more control over education to states.

The bill has passed the U.S. Senate and the House and is expected to be signed later this month by President Barack Obama.

U.S. Reps Ryan Costello (R-6) and Pat Meehan (R-7) said this week that the bi-partisan bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), represents needed changes to the original legislation, from reducing redundant testing to eliminating impossible Adequate Yearly Progress standards. Chester County’s other Congressman, U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-16) also voted to support the measure. Both Pennsylvania U.S. Senators, Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) voted to support the measure last month.

“’No Child Left Behind’ was a well-intentioned step towards bringing more accountability to our schools and classrooms,” Meehan said in a statement. “But in the almost 15 years since it was enacted, we’ve learned that many of its mandates and requirements are simply unworkable. The one-size-fits-all metric of ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ is broken, the testing regimen is ineffective, and a dizzying array of Washington directives are tying the hands of our administrators and school boards.”

Costello noted he was pleased that elements of a bill he introduced earlier this year with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici made it into the final version of this bill.

“From Day One, I wanted to work to find a commonsense, bipartisan solution to the testing burden imposed on our students and teachers,” Costello said in a statement. “The SMART Act provisions included as part of the ESSA will accomplish this by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative assessments, limiting the amount of classroom time that can be dedicated to testing, and providing school districts and teachers with resources to develop a classroom-based curriculum that meets the needs of their students. I thank Congresswoman Bonamici for her leadership and cooperation on this issue over the past year.”

The legislation also likely means the demise of the proposed Common Core — a national set of educational standards designed to ensure uniform standards of curriculum across all 50 states. It returns standards and assessment guidelines largely to state education departments.

“Most of all, passage of this legislation establishes clear policy guidance for our schools, ending the eight-year vacuum that opened the door for the U.S. Department of Education to impose broad, one-size-fits all regulations on states and school districts,” Costello said. “This legislation not only stops the federal government from dictating Common Core standards on our students, but it explicitly reins the power of the Secretary of Education and returns it back to the states and school districts where it belongs.”

Meehan said he was pleased that another provision he had long supported — making it much harder for child predators to move from school district to district as employees — made it into the final bill.

“The bill will also make schools safer: it prohibits from facilitating the transfer of child predators to other local schools or districts, a provision I championed along with Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick earlier this year,” Meehan said.

Meehan also noted that the bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support, the result of both sides working together to find common ground — somewhat unusual in these politically polarized times.

“This bipartisan compromise has earned the support of a broad range of stakeholders in our education system: school boards, PTA associations, and the National Education Association. Giving states and schools more flexibility will help them better meet student needs and keep property taxes low. It will empower parents, teachers, students and taxpayers. It’s good news when Republicans and Democrats can come together to do what’s best for our kids’ educations,” Meehan said.

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