Senator Joe Donnelly

Donnelly Helps Senate Pass Bipartisan Bill to End Flawed No Child Left Behind Law, Increase Local Control of Education

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly helped the Senate pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, legislation that would reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and end the flawed federal one-size-fits-all No Child Left Behind policies by allowing states to design systems to identify and support schools that need improvement. The bill also includes provisions similar to those authored by Donnelly that would promote parent and family engagement in early childhood learning. The bill would also authorize Preschool Development Grants that states could compete for to increase access, improve, and coordinate their pre-K programs. The Every Student Succeeds Act now heads to President Obama’s desk after the Senate passed it on a bipartisan 85-12 vote, as it previously passed in the House.

Donnelly said, “It is time we move beyond the failed policies of the No Child Left Behind era. I am pleased the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act would empower and give communities, parents, and teachers the ability to work with school districts and states to ensure that every child receives a quality education. A good education not only lays a foundation for our students to reach their potential but helps increase economic opportunity for Americans and Hoosiers.

“I am also pleased that the Every Student Succeeds Act includes federal preschool development grants, which would expand pre-K to more children. I stand ready to work with educators, local partners, and officials at the federal, state, and local levels to expand access to preschool programs. Access to early childhood education is critically important for Hoosier families in every part of our state.” 

Carrie Bale, Executive Director of BY5 in Delaware County said, “Delaware County, Indiana and BY5 partners are pleased with the ESEA reauthorization with regards to the historic support for components directly tied to high-quality preschool, parent engagement and early literacy initiatives. This bill would not only allow but strongly encourages school systems to include and embed early learning into the continuum of learning that begins before children enter school. The bill also says that the opportunities for education should not be dictated by the zip code in which a child is born into, but be provided to all children who need it most. ESEA will provide the necessary impetus for schools in Indiana to partner with, develop and include more high quality preschool opportunities for children who will be the future workforce for Indiana, and increase the current dismal ranking of 43rd in the nation for the number of children ages 3 and 4 who are enrolled in preschool in Indiana. BY5 and the Delaware County citizens are excited for the positive impact the passage of ESEA will have for the future of our community.” 

In addition to initiatives related to early childhood education and reforming the No Child Left Behind law, the Every Student Succeeds Act would:

  • Provide resources to states and school districts to support teachers, principals, and other educators, so they can implement programs for new teachers, provide ongoing professional development, and recruit new educators to the profession;
  • Reauthorize the 21stCentury Community Learning Centers afterschool program to provide academic and enrichment activities for students;
  • Support rural schools by providing more flexible use of federal funding to enable rural school districts to more effectively implement programs;
  • Help states to improve low-performing schools; and
  • Restore states’ responsibility for determining how to use federally-required tests.

Donnelly has supported efforts to expand access to early childhood education. Last year, Indiana Governor Mike Pence chose not to apply for a federal Preschool Development Grant to expand voluntary, high-quality pre-K to Hoosier children despite being eligible to receive up to $80 million in funding, prompting Donnelly to express his disappointment at the Governor’s decision. Last month, the Indianapolis Star reported that thousands of Hoosier families had been turned away from pre-K due to lack of funding, and Donnelly again expressed his displeasure.

Donnelly spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in July 2015 about the importance of early childhood education and parent and family engagement in early childhood learning.

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