Udall: Stakes High As Senate Works To Reform No Child Left Behind

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

U.S. SENATE News:

Thursday, as the Senate debated reform of the nation’s controversial No Child Left Behind education law, Sen. Tom Udall highlighted the impact the Senate’s bill, called the Every Child Achieves Act, and could have on New Mexico students.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Udall urged the Senate to improve the law and ensure it supports New Mexico students and teachers, as well as all students across the country that deserve a fair shot at success. See Udall’s speech at https://youtu.be/e8Fmd-LT5zY.

Udall has already worked to include several provisions in the bill, and he highlighted the critical need to provide support and resources for early education, Native American schools, health and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teen parents and teachers. 

“We should build on what works and leave behind what doesn’t, but don’t leave behind good students or those teachers who dedicate their lives to helping them,” Udall said.

“Now is the time for reform: to assure that standards are strong and if not met, efforts are in place to help those students; to make sure that teachers and parents know how students are performing every year; and to give states and school districts the support to succeed.” 

“But let’s be clear,” Udall said. “We face troubling and chronic achievement and opportunity gaps. Every school must address this and be held accountable. Now is the time to address resource inequities. Now is the time to invest in what works and not take resources away from students, schools and districts with the greatest needs.”

Nearly one in three children in New Mexico lives in poverty and the state ranks last in overall child well-being. Udall added that he is committed to working to change this and ensuring that every child has a fair shot and receives the education they need — for their futures and for the future of New Mexico’s economy. 

“If we fail at taking care of our children, we will fail at everything else. So the stakes are high as we work to reform No Child Left Behind,” Udall said. “The Every Child Achieves Act is a step forward. When we say every child succeeds, we have to mean it; every child — including those in the poorest and most vulnerable communities.”

Earlier this year, Udall introduced legislation aimed at helping improve the health and education of New Mexico children by increasing access to federal education and anti-poverty programs. The Saving Our Next Generation (SONG) Act would fully fund and streamline eligibility for programs that are proven to improve child well-being, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Head Start, school meal programs and housing assistance. Udall said he supports amendments to the Every Child Achieves Act, such as a proposal by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the Strong Start for America’s Children, which would create a five-year innovative federal-state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth-to-age-5 continuum.

Udall also discussed his amendment, which passed Wednesday, calling for the secretaries of Education and the Interior to conduct a study regarding elementary and secondary education in rural or poverty areas. Udall has introduced another amendment to ensure that the Bureau of Indian Education is always part of formula set asides for states and always eligible to apply for competitive discretionary grants when appropriate. 

While Udall is pushing the Senate to improve the bill, he has already secured provisions in the legislation, including measures to classify physical education and health as core subjects and provide support to help teen parents stay in school and raise healthy children.

The bill also includes some of Udall’s other education priorities, like steps to strengthen early childhood education, a measure to expand Native language immersion programs, and investments in STEM teaching, financial literacy, rural school districts and 21st-century learning centers. 

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