The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night despite a promise from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that he would not push bills through Congress without providing a realistic time for public analysis and input. ESSA’s text was finally made public this past Monday, with the House voting on the 1,000+ page bill just two days later.
Chairman Kline was correct when he said this bill was not a perfect bill. The gains that leadership points to in the bill are largely illusory. This bill has grave defects that are of real concern to parents, and these defects would have been avoided altogether had Congress bothered to listen to the people.
It’s like the Obamacare process all over again — secret meetings, backroom deals, and nobody was given time to read the whole bill. When Obamacare came down, the GOP was quick to sound the alarm that there was never an opportunity for legislators to hold town hall meetings or discuss the legislation with constituents. Once again, we have a 1,000+ page bill that impacts every household in America, yet the people were completely cut out of the process — and this time by the very same party that cried foul over the very same process five years ago.
ESSA is the product of leadership’s intent to cut the American people out of the legislative process. The bills in both chambers were pushed through without a meaningful opportunity for the legislators to review the bills and provide their input. That trend was continued in conference committee when leadership made the decisions on what ultimately became a 1,000+ page bill and did not release it to the public until November 30 — voting on it two days later on December 2.
Once again, Congress has treated education policy-making as bargaining fodder for other agenda items.
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education.