S1177 Every Student Succeeds Act: The Deception and the Facts

This is going to be a long post. I want to put all information, we have so far regarding the ESEA/NCLB renewal, now dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) in one place. Given that it is over 1,000 pages of legal ease, and it has only been available for 6 days, we know that there will be other issues.

For about 2 ½ years Congress has been working on a renewal of NCLB. In July, 2015, the House passed its version, HR5 at 656 pages. The Senate had its S1177 at 1,026 pages.

Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray came together and decided that there needed to be a renewal of NCLB now. Due to the differences in the bill, a Conference Committee was put together to hammer out those differences into one bill that both houses could agree on.

Knowing this was conference committee was meeting, and making deals and working hard behind closed doors, more than 200 grassroots groups and experts from 46 states came together and sent a letter to congress expressing concerns and opposing any conference report based on the two bills.

On November 19, 2015, the Conference Committee met to amend and approve the conference report. At the conclusion of that meeting, it was announced that the full text of the bill would be available on November 30, 2015 and the House would vote on the bill December 2nd, December 3rd at the latest.

What? Less than 72 hours to read a bill that will affect nearly every child and family in the nation? I thought Speaker Paul Ryan had said that with his leadership in the House, these types of tactics were over. So we waited. On November 30, at 9:30 am, S1177, the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) full text was made public. It is a whopping 1,061 pages of federal regulation and programs. And yes, the House will have a floor vote on ESSA on December 2. Seriously? 1,061 pages to be read and analyzed by all representatives in less than 72 hours? How could they possible know exactly what they were voting on? How could parents and the general public possibly have the opportunity to read and digest what changes the federal government wants to make to their child’s education?

The committee knew this would be an issue, so the Education and Workforce committee put out a bookmark with the “Top Ten Reasons” this bill is a win for Republicans.

Committee talking points

Congressional leadership knew that this bill had to be voted on quickly. If parents were given a chance to read this bill, there would be public outcry that congress would not be able to ignore.

What the committee didn’t count on was parents and education experts from across the nation coming together to research S1177. Dr. Karen Effrem, Florida Stop Common Core Coalition put together a rebuttal to the “Top Ten”.

Rebuttal to US House Ed. Committee Talking Points on ESSA

December 2, 2015

Karen R. Efrem, MD – Executive Director
The House Education and Workforce Committee put out an infographic trying to convince their members that the 1061 page monstrosity released only about 48 hours before the final vote to rewrite No Child Left Behind is a Republican “win.”  They are trying to make their members feel okay about throwing our children to the Common Core beast and ignoring more than 200 parent groups in 46 states and instead listening to the Washington Cartel education elites and corporate raiders.  Here are their claims followed by the truth.

1)      CLAIM: Places new and unprecedented restrictions on the sec. of education
TRUTH:  There is no enforcement mechanism for any of these restrictions and the sec. of education still has veto power over the state plans that still mandate standards and assessments similar to Common Core. (Details HERE)

2)      CLAIM:  Prohibits the sec. of education from forcing, coercing, or incentivizing states into adopting Common Core
TRUTH: ESSA heavily influences standards within the bill itself. This requirement to have the standards comply with 11 different unconstitutional federal statutes setting up standards similar to Common Core will be statutory a state must comply with it regardless of what the Secretary does or doesn’t do. (Details HERE)

3)      CLAIM:  Ends the era of federally mandated high-stakes tests
TRUTH: Tests are still federally mandated along with 95% participation with no opt-out clause as was present in the House bill.  There are new mandates for the tests to be psychologically profiling “higher order thinking skills” and “strategies to improve students’ skills outside the academic subject areas.” This is combined with new evidence of lax student data protection.

4)      CLAIM: Eliminates the federally mandated one-size-fits-all accountability system
TRUTH: While it is an improvement that AYP is gone, the mandates for what states must include in their accountability systems are still very concerning, especially in non-academic areas.

5)      CLAIM: Repeals 49 ineffective and duplicative federal programs
TRUTH: The appropriations language will have to be examined to make sure these programs are actually eliminated, not merely consolidated as was mentioned by several groups during discussion of HR 5. The ineffective, invasive 21st Century Community Schools with increased mental health interference are funded.

6)      CLAIM:  Provides states and schools with new funding flexibility
TRUTH: With all of the myriad legalistic and detailed requirements in a 1061 page bill, flexibility is in the eye of the federal bureaucrats that will be beholding this mess for interpretation and implementation. 

7)      CLAIM: Holds the line on no new pre-K programs
TRUTH: How this can be said with a straight face when there is $250 million in new grant spending with required alignment to Head Start that requires controversial psychosocial “Baby Common Core” national standards and there is so much research showing lack of effectiveness or harm of these programs is beyond comprehension.  (See HERE for more details). 

8)      CLAIM: Prohibits the use of federal education dollars to fund abortions.
TRUTH: That there needs to be any discussion of the use of federal education dollars for any health issues, especially one as controversial as abortion, speaks to the scope of the appallingly unconstitutional interference in both education and health.

9)      CLAIM: Offers parents more school choice.
TRUTH: While it is good that private and home schools seem to have escaped coming under the federal strings and regulations, such as requirement for public school standards like Common Core  and tests in this bill, proclaiming charter schools as a great alternative to public schools is not exactly accurate.  These are still public schools, have unelected boards, must give the public school tests based on the Common Core standards in the vast majority of states, and are a boon to unaccountable corporations.

10)   CLAIM: Provides a four year authorization of the law
TRUTH: This is an improvement over the previous seven year period that went for fourteen, but any amount of time that carries the requirements for federally mandated standards and testing that psychologically profiles our children and results in essentially the same type of standards as Common Core along with many other invasive programs is still too long.

Why We Must Stop the ESEA Rewrite Ocotpus

Mary Byrne, EdD of Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project, Jane Robbins of American Principles Project, Erin Tuttle of Hoosiers Against Common Core, Karen Effrem, MD of Education Liberty Watch and Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, Glyn Wright of Eagle Forum and Kevin Baird of Eagle Forum, collaborated to research and write the following paper:

Top 12 concerns about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA reauthorization):

  1. PROCESS VIOLATES TENENTS OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT – OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE BILL PROCESS AND DELIBERATIVE DEBATE. Process of forwarding conference report echoes the process of (Un) Affordable Care Act “You have to pass it to see what’s in it” – that is. Congress won’t be reading it.
  2. HEAVILY INCENTIVIZES STATES TO MAINTAIN COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS: As a requirement of the Act, states must “demonstrate” to the Secretary that they have adopted standards that are aligned to the same definition of “college and career” standards used to force states into adopting Common Core under NCLB waivers.
  3. ASSESSSMENT OF NON-COGNITIVE ATTITUDES, BEHAVIORS, and MINDSETS: Bill will maintain momentum for increasing non-academic data collection of student and family information into statewide longitudinal data systems.
  4. PARENT RIGHTS: The Salmon Amendment in HR5 that allowed parents to opt out of high-stakes state assessments is no longer included. Students whose parents opt them out of the test, must be included in the 95% participation formula.
  5. EROSION OF STATE POWER OVER EDUCATION: The state accountability system must be structured as per the federal bill.
  6. FEDERAL CONTROL OF STANDARDS CONTENT: Bill language appears to require standards that align with career and technical education standards, indicating that the standards must align to the federally approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  7. NO CHECKS ON FEDERAL POWER, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS JUDGE AND JURY OF ITS OWN ACTIVITY – NO SUNSET OF LAW: The framework would only “authorize” ESEA for four more years, as opposed to the typical five, but, there’s no sunset provision in the bill, so it could go on in perpetuity.
  8. EXPANSION OF GOVERNMENT ROLE IN CHILDCARE/DISINCENTIVE TO ACTIVELY SEEK EMPLOYMENT: Bill is said to expand Head Start to childcare with Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014 so that no work requirements will be expected of low income parents to access grant money to pay for childcare.
  9. ADVANCES PROFITING BY PRIVATE CORPORATIONS USING EDUCATION DOLLARS THAT SHOULD GO TO CLASSROOMS: Increasing the education budget to fund private investors to implement government- selected social goals is outside the scope of improving education, and outside the authority of Congress as described in the U.S. Constitution.
  10. INCREASED ESEA SPENDING: ESSA authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2017-2020. Spending authority will increase by 2% each year.
  11. EROSION OF LOCAL CONTROL: The conference report language encourages states to form consortia that, without congressional approval, may be determined illegal.
  12. DATA PRIVACY: Language in the conference report appears to rein in the Secretary of Education’s power and protect student data by inserting prohibitions of collecting additional student data, but makes no attempt to reverse the harm already done by Secretary Duncan’s modification of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

You can read the paper in its entirety here.


Sen. Mike Lee, in a floor speech on November 18, 2015 had this to say about the conference committee process:

So from the surface, it will still look like the conference process is happening the way it’s supposed to.

But beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been pre-arranged, pre-cooked, pre-determined… by a select few members of Congress, working behind closed doors, free from scrutiny.

And we know that this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice, so that it would be difficult – if not impossible – for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.

Even state legislators got involved in fighting the deception.

Georgia State Senator William Ligon, penned a letter to Speaker Ryan and all members of Congress.

As a State Senator, it never ceases to amaze me how often our federal officials easily overlook the constitutional principle of federalism and the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that the States have a republican form of government. This lack of constitutional integrity is especially true in the arena of education. As someone who has taken the lead in the Georgia Legislature on attempting to restore state, local, and parental sovereignty over education, I recognize that the real obstacle is the federal government.

You can read the full letter here

Senator Lamar Alexander posted this on Facebook.

Lamar Alexander ESEA NGA FB Post

You see, all the education organizations, including the NGA, CCSSO, Great Schools, and PTA have endorsed S1177. The fact that the NGA and CCSSO, the copyright holders of the Common Core State Standards, endorse this legislation that we have been told does not mandate the Common Core, is a red flag.

And just in case you were wondering about how Common Core plays into this bill. Here is Rep. Tim Ryan on the House Floor during debate on Dec. 2.

ESSA, just like Common Core is not about academics. It’s about values, beliefs, attitudes, grit, tenacity and perseverance. It is about the psychological profiling of “higher order thinking skills” to create a cradle to grave, state run, interoperable data system for each and every child to align them to the workforce.

The renewal of ESEA/NCLB, now dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) sailed through the House of Representatives with a vote of 359 to 64. Rep. Kristi Noem stood with the Obama administration and voted “YES” on this bill. I know that seems harsh. Let me explain.

On Friday, Dec. 4, Education Secretary Arne Duncan put out this statement regarding passage of the ESSA in the House. The following is a quote from that statement:

But yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives finally answered the overdue notice and took action to revise and replace No Child Left Behind. This bipartisan plan — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — is good news for our nation’s schools. It is a compromise that builds on the work already underway in states to raise expectations for students and to help them graduate college and career-ready. The bill reflects many of the priorities we’ve put forward over the last six and a half years. (Emphasis mine)

S1177 strengthens NCLB and codifies what the Obama administration has been doing through executive fiat for the past 6 years.

This bill now moves to the Senate in the coming week. We don’t have an exact date yet for the vote. It is vital that you contact Senators Thune and Rounds and tell them to vote NO on S1177. The education lobby has spent big money to get this bill passed. Our senators hear from them every day. They need to hear from you and you need to contact them more than once. You are the lobbyist for your children. There is nothing more important than our children.

Sen. Mike Rounds (202) 224-5842

Sen. John Thune Toll-Free: 1-866-850-3855


2 thoughts on “S1177 Every Student Succeeds Act: The Deception and the Facts

  1. Pingback: A Call to Action! Your Children and Grandchildren are Depending on You! | South Dakotans Against Common Core

  2. Pingback: President Obama and Arne Duncan’s Education Legacy | South Dakotans Against Common Core

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