Washington, DC – As the Senate debates the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke on the Senate floor today to underscore the need for Congress to reauthorize ESEA in a way that moves us away from the broken No Child Left Behind era, and strengthens the accountability provisions of the legislation to ensure that every student in our country has access to a high-quality public education.
Excerpt from Sen. Booker’s remarks as given:
This body should be a steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has a role when it comes to the investments we make in housing, when it comes to the investments we make in infrastructure, when it comes to defense dollars, to make sure these dollars are serving the purpose to which they are extended. To make sure the investments produce return for taxpayers. Today the federal government and this body still have that critical role to play when it comes to making sure that all American children have access to a quality education…Now the students succeeding in our country’s quality schools will have the opportunity to become our next generation of teachers, mayors, police, firefighters, doctors, and senators. They will lead the globe. This is what I’m proud of as an American. The students, though, struggling in our country’s failing schools deserve to have that same opportunity. I know this from traveling our country and traveling our state, that prodigy isn’t bounded by geography, the genius is equally distributed in our country.
Talent isn’t concentrated in one zip code and not in another…I have seen schools flourish in poor neighborhoods. I have seen great schools meet incredible challenges and succeed at educating our kids. We know what is possible, and we should expect better than we’re seeing now. Our moral test is whether we will be able to attain success everywhere it might be found, that we will be able to nurture the genius of all of our kids. We owe it to every child in America to ensure that every door is open for them to demand better. We need to demand better for our kids. We need to keep them front and center as we consider this bill on the floor.
We cannot succeed as a nation in an increasingly global, competitive environment if we leave genius on the sidelines. Our educational determination to help those children is not simply about them, it’s about us. It’s about whether we will get the full bounty of the strength and potential of our nation or if we will cast many aside into those dark places into that other America. We cannot now be damned by the self-defeating state of low expectations for ourselves and all of our children. Kids who languish in this other America because of a lack of compassion and support and investment, they cannot now be seen to have less accountability for their success. I know as we debate this bill there will be resistance to the idea that those failing most, those stuck in dropout factories, those in another America don’t deserve levels of accountability, but I know that if we focus on those children to keep them at the center of our thought as it was done by president Johnson when this bill originated in idea, I know that we could be the America we want to be, a nation that when our children put their hands on their hearts and say those words , liberty and justice for all, that they are real indeed for all children.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who believed that "full educational opportunity" should be "our first national goal." Senator Booker is focused on ensuring the reauthorization legislation preserves the original intent of the law while expanding access to and advancing equity within America’s public education system.