What Did the Senate Just Give Us? Looking at Every Child Achieves (Part II)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Here is a recap of some of the other important amendments proposed for S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, and votes that were largely disappointing for those wanting educational freedom in this now approximately 1000 page bill based on category (Please see the Congress.gov website for all of the amendments offered with links to language and a list of status, the Senate website for specific roll call votes on the amendments and S 1177 itself, andEducation Week  for other summaries.)

TESTING:

Cruz amendment (SA 2180) to get rid of federal testing mandates – This failed by a vote of 40-58. Presidential candidates Paul and Rubio joined Senator Cruz in voting for this important amendment.  Sanders voted against this great amendment favored by many Democrat teachers and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted against this amendment and all Republicans voted for it except: Alexander, Ayotte, Capito (WV), Cochrane (MS), Corker (TN), Flake (AZ), Gardner (CO), Kirk, Portman, Rounds (SD), and Thune.  It is very sad that Republicans who say they are for smaller government voted against this effort to send control of testing back to the states and districts.

Lee amendment (SA 2162) to allow written parental testing opt out  –  Sadly, this also failed by a vote of 32-64. Every single Democrat and nineteen Republicans voted against this fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. Of the presidential candidates, Cruz and Paul correctly voted for this important amendment while Sanders voted against it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Paul amendment (SA 2218) to permit parental opt out without being counted against the 95% participation mandate – This is quite similar to the Salmon amendment that was one of the few really strong pieces of language to pass in HR 5, The Student Success Act, the House version of the NCLB rewrite. Senator Alexander did not allow this amendment to the floor.

Tester amendment (SA 2129) to reduce testing mandate to three times in grades 3-12 for English and math instead of annually – This was never allowed to the floor for debate.

Isakson amendment (SA 2194) “to require local educational agencies to inform parents of any State or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year” – This largely symbolic amendment will be basically useless for protecting parental opt-out rights due to the 95% participation and other mandates in the main bill, but it is all the administration, leadership of both parties, and the corporate interests were willing to accept.  It passed by a vote of 97-0 with Graham and Rubio not voting.

Murphy amendment (SA 2241) to reinstate the high stakes testing accountability of NCLB – Fortunately, this failed by a complete party line vote of 43-54, with Democrats and Sanders supporting, Republicans opposing, and Cruz and Graham not voting. Teachers are appalled that the Democrats voted to return to the “test and punish” paradigm of NCLB.

Kirk amendment (SA 2161) to re-establish more test based accountability as in NCLB – This amendment similar to the Murphy amendment also failed by mostly party line a vote of 40-56 (60 votes were required) with Democrat Tester and Independent King joining most all of the Republicans in opposition; Republicans Hatch, Heller, Kirk and Murkowski joining Sanders and the rest of the Democrats in support; and Cruz, Graham, and Blumenthal (D-CT) not voting.

PSYCHOSOCIAL PROFILING & MANIPULATION – We described the positive development above of the rejection of the Heitkamp amendment, but unfortunately there were two other amendments that passed that will add to the already numerous provisions expanding this completely unacceptable federal activity in K-12 education:

Brown amendment (SA 2100) to restore the Full Service Community Schools grants from NCLB – Despite Alexander’s opposition, the horrific grant program that turns schools into a second or even first home for children and reduces parents to “breeders and feeders,” passed 43-51.  Among the purposes of the program are to “ensure that children have the physical, social, and emotional well-being to come to school ready to engage in the learning process every day.”  The grantee is supposed to do a means assessment that “identifies the academic, physical, social, emotional, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents,” which will include all sorts of mental health data gathering. The list  of services that can be offered is 23 items long and included mental health services and “other services consistent with this part.” All of the Democrats plus Republicans Ayotte, Blunt (MO), Capito, Collins, Fischer (NE), Hoeven (ND), Isakson (GA), and Portman voted for this nanny state expansion while all of the rest of the Republicans, including presidential candidates Cruz and Paul wisely voted against it, Sanders voted for it, and Graham and Rubio did not vote.

Blunt amendment (SA 2195) to expand school based mental health services – This amendment to add even more mental health services was unfortunately adopted by a voice vote.  This will result in more psychological profiling and data gathering, more improper and subjective mental health labeling, and more drugging of children with psychotropic medications that have harmful if not fatal side effects. (See HERE for citations).

Franken Amendment (SA 2093) – “To end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools” – This highly subjective, unconstitutional amendment failed by an unfortunate mostly party line vote of 52-45 (60 votes were required for passage. Ayotte (NH), Collins (ME), Kirk (IL), Heller (NV), Johnson (WI), Murkowski (AK) and Portman (OH) were the Republicans voting in support along with all of the Democrats). Presidential candidates Cruz and Paul rightly voted against this amendment and Sanders not surprisingly voted for it, while Graham and Rubio did not vote.   Senator Alexander led the opposition rightly saying that this is not a federal issue, but one belonging to states.  Regardless of one’s views on this issue, it would be impossible for the federal government to fairly enforce a discrimination policy based on “perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” just as it is with the bullying bill or the athletic policyallowing transgendered athletes to play on the teams of their choice instead of their biological gender that have recently passed in Franken’s home state of Minnesota. Completely inappropriate issues about gender identity and family structure diversity are appearing in preschool curriculum and state and national Head Start pre-K standards, which makes the preschool language that passed in ECAA all the more dangerous.

EARLY CHILDHOOD – While appreciative that the Casey universal preschool amendment was defeated, there is still plenty of early childhood in the underlying Senate bill, so we do not understand why Republican Orrin Hatch (UT) had to have another early childhood provision addedl:

Hatch amendment (SA 2082) to include “such as pay for success initiatives that promote coordination among existing programs and meet the purposes of this part” – This will require much more data gathering for the controversial pre-K assessments dealing with psychosocial issues, which is ironic because Hatch is supposed to be the data privacy guru in the Senate and he offered an amendment (see below) to “study student privacy issues.” Alexander added it under an agreement and it unfortunately passed by a voice vote.

DATA PRIVACY – There is much disturbing individual data gathering, including data on socioemotional issues that happens already thanks to Common Core related assessments, the current provisions in ESEA and other federal law and the 2012 regulatory gutting of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  There are also several data privacy bills that have been introduced including SenatorDavid Vitter’s Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S 1341, which is the only one that deals with psychological data gathering.  While appreciative that they restored the prohibition on psychological data gathering in the statewide assessments, that provision is only one small step to protecting the minds and rights of conscience of our children.  So it is very disturbing that all the Senate can muster is a provision requiring a symbolic study commission to deal with student privacy issues.  Senator Hatch, author of the important but weakened Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is the author of that amendment.  It appears that the Obama administration efforts to expand data collection and thebig business interests (Gates, Exxon) and  foundation partners (Jeb Bush’s former foundation Foundation for Excellence in Education) such as those found in the Data Quality Campaign held sway over the Senate instead of parents and privacy advocates.  The amendment passed unanimously with a vote of 89-0 with the following 11 senators not voting:

Not Voting – 11

Blunt (R-MO)
Cruz (R-TX)
Graham (R-SC)
Kirk (R-IL)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)

MISCELLANEOUS:

Coons (D-DE)/Rubio amendment (SA 2243) to establish American Dream accounts –This bipartisan amendment to establish a trial grant program leading to college savings accounts had a number of competing interests. It supported the conservative value of saving for college in an effort to help poor children succeed and promotes dual enrollment which cuts college costs, but it is another federal spending program that requires much individual data collection to monitor if students are “college ready,” which currently means compliance with Common Core.  It passed with a large majority vote of 68-30 with an interesting breakdown.  Conservative Ted Cruz joined fellow presidential candidates Rubio and Sanders and all of the Democrats in supporting it, along with establishment and conservative Republicans Ayotte, Blunt, Capito, Cotton, Crapo, Daines, Gardner (CO), Hoeven, Inhofe, Johnson, Kirk, McConnell, Risch, Sasse, Scott, Sullivan, Toomey, and Vitter.  All of the rest of the Republicans led by Alexander and including presidential candidate Paul voted in opposition.  Graham did not vote.

Sanders amendment (SA 2177) to reduce youth unemployment – This amendment was to correct a very real problem of high minority youth incarceration by a very incorrect method of raising taxes to sponsor another ineffective federal program.  What Sanders and the federal government need to realize is that their social policies since the 1960s that have exploded the rates of out of wedlock births are what is responsible for this tragic circumstance.  Fortunately, this failed by vote of 43-55 mostly along party lines. Democrat Manchin and Independent King (ME who usually caucuses and votes with the Democrats) voted in opposition and Graham did not vote.

This bill will have to be reconciled with the better, but still significantly flawed House bill, HR 5 – The Student Success Act that barely passed the House on July 8th with every single Democrat and 27 conservative Republicans opposing it. President Obama has already issued a veto threat if the bill is too much like the House bill.  He apparently is not very pleased with the Senate bill either, but has fallen short of a veto threat.

Despite any discouragement, we must keep fighting to save the hearts and minds of our children and give them education for a free nation.  Please continue to inform your members of Congress about the many problems with both of these bills and demand that they leave these bills alone until after the next election. Anything that this president would sign would not be supportive of local control, parental rights and teacher autonomy given his administration’s track record with Common Core and Race to the Top.