SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says an overhaul she co-wrote for the No Child Left Behind law will lift punishment the federal government has held over Washington’s public schools.
The Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that President Barack Obama is expected to sign Thursday.
Once it becomes law, most school accountability will return to states.
Washington state will no longer have to seek waivers, which grant flexibility for strict federal policies, under the new measure. It also will return control of about $40 million in federal dollars to local school officials and eliminate the need to send letters home to families saying their schools were failing.
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“The impact of the NCLB law is literally every parent getting a letter home from school in the fall saying your school is failing, which didn’t improve education for anyone,” said Murray, D-Washington. “There will be no more waivers. There will be no more letters home to parents.”
In 2014, Washington lost its waiver after lawmakers refused to answer a demand by the federal government that they pass a bill that would require statewide student test results to be used as a factor in teacher evaluations.
Murray said she expects the proposed version of the federal education law will spark a new national interest on early learning, encourage innovation in the states and decrease emphasis on school testing.
Members of the statewide teacher’s union, the Washington Education Association, celebrated the passage of the new law.
WEA President Kim Mead said the newly passed bill, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, will make sure more time is spent learning and less time will be focused on high-stakes tests.
“With the passage of this act, we’re eager to leave the old and flawed federal law behind,” Mead said in a statement, adding her thanks to Murray for putting kids first and for listening to the concerns of educators.
Gov. Jay Inslee called the old federal education law — a product of the George W. Bush administration — “outdated and burdensome” and agreed that the new law would be good for Washington.
State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, said the old law was too focused on punishment.
“States need flexibility in order to adopt policies that work best in our unique communities,” Santos, D-Seattle, said in a statement. “Gone are the days when the federal government can use the threat of funding cuts to coerce states into adopting policies that don’t best meet the needs of students.”
The No Child Left Behind overhaul is the result of one of the most successful bipartisan collaborations in Congress this year, between Murray and the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who called the new law a “Christmas present” to 50 million children across the country.
Bipartisan cooperation is the key to getting things done in Congress, Murray said.
“I come to work knowing what the issues are that are important to the people,” she said. “You don’t get everything you want,” but you can reach your goals when you find people who are willing to compromise.
Murray has a long list of other initiatives she wants to tackle in the near future: making higher education more affordable, improving the nation’s health care system, and reforming laws to help people with mental illness and opioid drug addictions.
“I have a lot to work on,” she said. “I am not bored.”