Senate Approves ESEA; Resource Issue Remains

PFAW Praises Targeting of Funds, Absence of Voucher Provisions, and Maintaining Anti-Hate Funding and Civil Rights Protections

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 87-10 to adopt the conference report on the Elementary & Secondary Education Act. The president is expected to sign the measure soon, reauthorizing ESEA for six years. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas released the following statement in the wake of the Senate’s vote:

Statement of Ralph G. Neas
President, People For the American Way
"Today, the Senate sent a clear message that public schools have a responsibility for helping all students to achieve and for closing the achievement gap. The good news is that the version of ESEA passed today puts the focus on public schools. The final bill did not include any of the voucher provisions that were part of the White House’s original proposal.

"More good news is the fact that ESEA enables Title I and other federal programs to be targeted like never before so these initiatives can better reach the children and schools who need them most. Unfortunately, while Title I funding is being increased, the program’s funding next year will cover only about half of the eligible students. Over the next six years, Congress and the president will—by their actions—determine whether ESEA has raised expectations much higher than it has raised resources.

"While resources were a key issue in this debate, tolerance and civil rights were among the ‘social issues’ that were on the table. There was a misguided effort by some groups to remove funding for anti-hate programs that teach students not to harass or victimize others for who they are. And there was an attempt to permit community-based organizations that discriminate to receive federal funding for after-school programs. The far right sought to promote its agenda on school prayer and to force schools to open their doors to the Boy Scouts, despite its discriminatory policy. People For the American Way joined others in denouncing all of these efforts. While we are disappointed by ESEA’s provisions concerning school prayer and the Boy Scouts, we are pleased that the Senate approved a version of ESEA that maintained civil rights protections and a commitment to combat acts of hate."

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