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Quigley Stands Up for Teachers, Students

Feb 26, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke on the House Floor against the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which takes money from schools with the greatest need and redistributes it to less needy schools in more affluent communities. 

Below is a video and transcript of the speech. 

Mr. Speaker, like many of you as a kid I learned about Robin Hood. You know the story; he stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

But today, I come to talk to you about something a little less story book. In this case, my friends on the other side of the aisle are supporting a bill that robs from poor schools and gives to rich schools.

The so-called Student Success Act that we are debating today, takes money from schools with the greatest need and redistributes it to less needy schools in more affluent communities—hurting students and teachers in its wake.

That’s hardly the definition of success the bill claims to make. 

The Student Success Act would reauthorize education funds first signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, who said that “full educational opportunity should be our first national goal.”

But the Student Success Act completely misses the mark of what LBJ was trying to accomplish. 

A former teacher, LBJ believed that equal access to education was the key to success and that the vital education funding that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided would help millions of “children of poor families overcome the greatest barrier to progress: poverty.”

For 50 years, the ESEA has provided essential funding for school districts that serve low-income students as well as aid to state education agencies to help them improve the quality of elementary and secondary education around the country.

But the robust progress that our schools made in the first 40 years after the passage of ESEA has slowed over the last decade.

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, we’ve seen both sides acknowledge the problems that have resulted and commit to fixing them.

But rather than fixing those problems and redoubling our commitment to equal access to education, the Student Success Act actually creates more problems, moving even further away from what we know is best for students, is best for teachers, and is best for our country.

In its current form, H.R. 5 completely walks back the progress our nation has made in providing a high-quality education for all Americans, regardless of their zip code.

If we allow H.R. 5 to become law, school districts in Illinois and across the country will see their funding cut exponentially.

Nationally, this bill will cut education funding by over half a billion dollars in 2016 alone.

Chicago Public Schools, where over 60 percent of students are below the poverty level, will lose over $64 million in Title I funding. 

That’s a 23 percent cut in federal education dollars at a time when Chicago schools need it the most.

But wait, there’s more!

This bill eliminates qualification requirements for paraprofessionals, the teacher’s aides and support staff who provide vital assistance to our teachers in countless classrooms across the country.

It eliminates requirements to ensure quality professional development for teachers.

It directs $1 out of every $10 away from public schools and directs it to private companies.

It allows students with disabilities to be taught at separate, lower standards.

The bill fails to ensure that students succeed in the classroom or after graduation by gutting accountability standards.

These are standards that help ensure that students graduate from high school, which we know is so intimately linked to economic success.

This bill simply fails to provide our teachers and students with the resources they so desperately need to succeed.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board. It’s time to actually focus on providing students, schools and teachers to be more successful with an ESEA that puts the focus where it belongs – on investing in education. 

We need an ESEA that returns to its original purpose of fighting poverty and ensuring equity.

One that holds states and districts accountable for providing equitable resources.

One that includes a system of supportive interventions for struggling schools and students.

One that deals with the fact that two-thirds of the achievement gap is due to poverty and does something about it, such as funding community schools.

One that provides our teachers with the resources and support they need to help our young people succeed.

We can do better, Mr. Speaker. We must do better.

This is simply too important.

I urge my colleagues to vote no on the so-called Student Success Act.

Thank you and I yield back.