Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Education Reform from the Two-Sided Congressional Coin

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Education Reform from the Two-Sided Congressional Coin

Article excerpt


As one of this nation's most outstanding traditions and liberties, the American education system presents endless options and opportunities to its recipients. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), believing that our first national goal should be "full educational opportunity" for our children.1 As time and society have evolved since President Johnson's executive act, so has our nation's public education system.

Under President George W. Bush's administration in 2002, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was reauthorized and renamed "No Child Left Behind."2 Although No Child Left Behind was a necessary reauthorization and was successful for years following the 2002 reform, legislators and members of the executive branch agree that "No Child Left Behind" should be updated and replaced in order to improve K12 education.3 In early 2015, representatives within the House and Senate proposed education reform bills in an effort to improve such education; The Student Success Act (H.R. 5 or SSA) and the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177 or ECA) were proposed by the House and Senate, respectively. The SSA was passed by the house on July 8, 2015; the Senate followed closely behind, passing the ECA on July 15, 2015.4 Following the passage of the ECA and the SSA, the House-Senate Conference Committee approved the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)-a compromise between the ECA and the SSA on November 20, 2015.5 The bills shift education decision-making power from the federal government to the states, teachers, parents, and school boards.6 After passage through both the Senate and House, the ESSA was sent to the desk of the President where it was signed into law on December 10, 2015.7

Section II of this note will discuss the history of the No Child Left Behind Act and the decision-making power in public education. Section III will focus on the shift in that power, highlighting the significance of the shift and what it means for the future of our public education system. The impact the shift will have on our states, education systems, and students is specifically addressed in Section IV of this note and discusses the new requirements for states. Section V addresses the benefits of the bipartisan approach to the education reform and the overall importance in future bipartisan efforts to further improve the public education experience.


A. Where We Started and Where We Are Going

In its inception, ESE A served several purposes: it offered new grants to school districts with a high volume of low-income students; grants for text and library books; it created special education centers; scholarships for low-income college students; and provided grants to state educational agencies in an effort to improve the quality of the education offered.8

Prior to the December 10, 2015 passage of the ESS A, the most recent reauthorization of ESEA was No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB updated the ESEA by taking measures to expose achievement gaps typically experienced by underserved and low-income students.9 The 2002 education reform was a bipartisan approach that, though effective shortly after passed, had fallen flat in recent years and highlighted the urgent necessity of national education reform.10

As a result of the national buzz surrounding a necessary education reform, the Obama administration began evaluating NCLB in 2012 and allowed states some flexibility on certain requirements but required, in return, that states submit state-sponsored plans that would improve the quality of education within their state, close existing achievement gaps, and ensure a more successful educational experience and results for students.11 Since the Obama administration began its exploration into the reauthorization of NCLB in 2012, Washington leaders have discussed ways to improve NCLB in a way that best serves the interests of education and students. …

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