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Key Vote letter regarding H.R. 5, the "Student Success Act"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 8:00pm

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations, and dedicated to promoting, protecting, and defending America’s free enterprise system, has strong concerns that H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act,” would reduce school-level accountability, would not provide consequences for low-performing schools, and would not require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards and assessments. We urge you to oppose this legislation.

The Chamber believes strong accountability for all schools and all students is of utmost importance, and while H.R. 5 would require school performance transparency, it would not require true accountability. The Chamber believes schools must be held accountable for student achievement with clear and ambitious targets for improvement from year to year. States must not only disclose disaggregated student achievement data, but also hold schools accountable for improving student learning and closing student achievement gaps in exchange for federal funding.

With all schools and all students incorporated into an accountability system, schools that continually fail to meet the needs of students should be held responsible for taking steps toward improving student achievement in order to continue receiving federal support. The “Student Success Act,” however, would allow low-performing schools to continue receiving Title I funding without making changes to improve student outcomes.

Finally, schools must be accountable for graduating students with the skills necessary to go to college or enter the workplace. The Chamber believes that in order to close the achievement gap, states must adopt rigorous, college- and career-ready content standards and assessments. However, H.R. 5 lacks such a requirement. Without explicitly including that the standards must be “college- and career-ready,” the legislation could inadvertently result in the lowering of expectations for school and student achievement, as well as impede state-led efforts already underway.

While the Chamber opposes H.R. 5, we strongly believe that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) needs to be reauthorized as soon as possible. The U.S. Department of Education’s process of reauthorizing ESEA by waivers is not sustainable over the long term, and many of the current waivers contain the same flaws that have resulted in our opposition to this legislation.

Although the Chamber has strong concerns with H.R. 5, the legislation makes improvements over current law in several key areas. For example, the Chamber supports allowing Title I dollars to “follow the child,” particularly when students are stuck in consistently low-performing schools. Therefore, the Chamber is pleased to see that not only would H.R. 5 reserve a portion of Title I funds for public school choice, but it would also add the Local Academic Flexible Grants and include the business community in initiatives to improve student achievement. Additionally, the Chamber supports increased data and transparency on school performance, annual assessments in reading and math, grade-span assessments in science, teacher and principle evaluations, and state and local report cards to parents.

The Chamber opposes the “Student Success Act.” The Chamber may consider including votes on, or in relation to, this bill in our annual How They Voted scorecard.

Sincerely,
R. Bruce Josten