Contact Us

Cong. Issues Overview

Cong. Testimony

Guide to the Legislative Process


Legislative Action Center

Legislative Process FAQ’s

Letters to the Editor

NEA News Releases

    Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

    Update! As a House-Senate conference committee works out differences between the House and Senate versions of ESEA reauthorization, NEA continues to fight for the resources essential for effective reform. Central to this fight is funding for Title I and IDEA (special education). NEA advocates the increases authorized in the Senate bill.

    Title I - The Senate bill, S. 1, includes a provision to fully fund Title I. The House bill, H.R. 1, does not include this language. Click here to see how Title I funding to your state or Congressional District would increase, and how many additional teachers could be provided and additional children could be served under the Senate version of ESEA.

    IDEA - The Senate bill, but not the House bill, includes a commitment to fund 40 percent of IDEA. Click here to see how IDEA funding to your state or Congressional District would increase under the Senate proposal.


    After weeks of debate and scores of amendments, both the Senate and the House have completed their versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) -- H.R. 1 and S. 1.

    What we passed today is not a Democratic bill or a Republican bill -- but an education bill," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (MA.). "This has been truly a bipartisan effort, and it has produced a good result," said Minority Leader Trent Lott (MS).

    A House-Senate conference committee is now working to reconcile the two bills.

    Here are the major highlights of and differences between the bills.

    • Help for Special Education and Disadvantaged Students
      The Senate bill includes a commitment to fund 40 percent of IDEA (special education) and full funding of Title I via graduated annual increases to the program. The House bill does not contain extra funding for IDEA or Title I.

    • NO to Vouchers...But
      Neither of the Senate or House bills contains private school vouchers. The House bill does contain a provision to use Title I funds for private tutoring where public funding can be used toward private, commercial or religious organizations.

    • Qualified Teachers vs. Crowded Classrooms
      The class size reduction program was combined with professional development programs - essentially leading toward an either/or proposition for states and local school districts.

    • Accountability and Testing...
      Both the Senate and House bills require states to test all students every year between the third through eighth grades and once in high school. Federal assistance will be made available to states and local school districts to develop and administer the tests. Under the current plan, the test results would be used to measure success of an entire school.


    Both bills contain accountability measures with strict definitions for success based on "adequate yearly progress." Schools that test well but have a small drop in performance from one year to the next could be labeled as failing under the proposed system.

    NEA has been asked to work with the White House and other groups to find a workable measure so that strict testing and accountability measures do not unfairly punish students or schools.


    Both bills require teachers in Title I schools to be certified by the state AND to have a degree in their area of assignment. The House bill allows for teachers to otherwise demonstrate competency through a written test. The Senate bill allows for competency "through a statewide standard" that may be different than a written test. Teachers in charter schools are exempt from this requirement.


    The Senate Bill raises the federal commitment to public education by $13 billion. The House bill includes a $5.4 billion increase.

    The House emphatically rejected attempts to add private-school vouchers to the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act reauthorization bill, H.R. 1, and then passed the bill by a vote of 384-45. The House rejected by wide, bipartisan margins two proposals by Congressman Armey of Texas to add private school vouchers to the bill.

    • Armey's amendment would have authorized private school choice for students who 1) have attended low-performing schools for three years; 2) attend unsafe schools; or 3) have been victims of crimes; and also private school choice as a local use of Innovative Education Grants. The amendment failed: 155-273.

    • A second Armey amendment would have authorized up to five "school choice demonstration projects." It also failed: 186 to 241.

    Click on the links above to see how your member of Congress voted on vouchers.


    Ensuring all students the opportunity to excel requires quality teachers, smaller classes, and modern schools. Educators call on the Senate and the White House to craft an ESEA package that offers meaningful investments for children and public education, and rejects measures that would undermine real reform.

    Provide real investments in public education, including:

    • Support for America's neediest schools. Under the President's budget, Title I would fully serve only one-third of all eligible children. The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by Senators Collins of Maine and Dodd of Connecticut that expands Title I assistance to all eligible low-income students.

    • Support for urgent school repairs. Too many schools face urgent repair needs, such as crumbling roofs and unsafe electrical systems. Senate negotiators should not abandon last year’s bipartisan agreement to provide resources for urgent repairs.

    • Resources to help reduce class sizes. Studies have clearly demonstrated the positive impact of class size reduction on teaching and learning and Congress has supported class size reduction on a bipartisan basis for the past three years. To date, 29,000 teachers have been hired with federal class size funds, reducing class size for 1.6 million students.

    • Investments to ensure the highest quality teachers. Quality teacher preparation, certification, rigorous testing for all new teachers, and excellent in-service evaluations for current teachers are critical to attract and retain the best teachers. Pencil and paper tests, however, offer an ineffective and punitive means of evaluating veteran teachers. Teachers in charter schools should be held to the same quality standards as all teachers.

    Reject measures that will undermine positive reform efforts, including:

    • Voucher or “portability” proposals that divert federal dollars to private or religious schools. Such proposals shift scarce resources away from public schools while eliminating accountability for the use of federal funds.

    • Straight A’s block grants that eliminate targeting of federal dollars to those most in need. Such proposals undermine accountability for the use of federal funds while shifting decisionmaking authority to governors and away from local schools. Straight A’s block grants could also permit the use of federal funds for vouchers.

    • Charitable choice proposals that divert public funds to religious organizations for the provision of education services. Such measures could threaten employee and participant civil rights protections while violating the separation of church and state.

    Ask your Members of Congress to make these improvements to ESEA. Send them the message that undermining Title I or allowing federal funds to be spent for private schools will jeopardize the future of children and public education.

    Letters to the editor are a great way for educators to keep the folks at home aware of the issues being debated in Washington D.C. We've included a few sample letters to the editor here. Use them for ideas or verbatim as you make you voice heard for children and public education.

    ACT (ESEA)

    The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is our government’s single largest investment in elementary and secondary education. It provides targeted resources to help ensure that disadvantaged students have access to a quality public education.

    ESEA was originally authorized in 1965 for five years and had been reauthorized every five years since. It expired in the year 2000.

    ESEA contains a number of education programs critical to children and public education including:

    • Title I (funding initiatives aimed to help disadvantaged children meet high standards)
    • The Eisenhower Professional Development Program
    • Education Technology
    • Class Size Reduction
    • Safe and Drug Free Schools
    • Bilingual Education
    • Indian Education (Helping Native American students achieve to high academic standards.)
    • Charter Schools

    ESEA targets resources to specific needs. Its objectives are standards based. Its goals are to maximize student learning, to provide for teacher development and to enhance school system capacity.

    One of NEA's top priorities in reauthorization is to ensure ongoing high quality professional development for teachers, paraeducators and other paraprofessionals.

    Reauthorizing ESEA would reaffirm Congress’ commitment to support children and public education. But some proposals before Congress would dismantle the current successful package and abandon the promise of academic excellence and equal educational opportunity for every American child.

    Tell Congress not to jeopardize the future of America’s children. Send Congress the message to leave the programs contained in ESEA intact.

    For more information on the Congressional funding and reauthorization process, go to NEA’s Guide to the Legislative Process.

    For answers to frequently asked questions about the federal budget process, go to our Legislative Process FAQ’s page.

    Click here to read the transcript of NEA President Bob Chase’s Testimony on the Title I program before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

    NEA is a member of the Committee for Education Funding. Click here for more information on their efforts to achieve adequate federal financial support for our nation’s educational system.

    NEA Government Relations

nea's address
Privacy Policy