How does the Every Student Succeeds Act reverse the course of K-12 education in the United States? The headlines say it all: It “Restores Local Education Control.” It “continues a long federal retreat from American classrooms.” It “shifts power to states.” According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, it represents “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” The Every Student Succeeds Act, according to The New York Times, represents “the end of an era in which the federal government aggressively policed public school performance, and returning control to states and local districts.” But for all the breathless hype, the legislation seems unlikely to produce many changes that are actually visible on the ground.
The Senate on Wednesday approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill that will reauthorize the nation’s 50-year-old omnibus education law and make the “pretty-much-universally despised” No Child Left Behind obsolete. The legislation, which has already gotten the Obama administration’s tacit approval, is being touted by observers and policymakers from both the right and left as a product of rare bipartisan compromise. “I think this has turned out to be a textbook example of how to deal with a difficult subject,” Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who co-wrote the legislation, told Politico. “When we come to a bipartisan consensus like this, I think the country accepts it a lot better.” Democratic Senator Patty Murray, another architect of the act, tweeted: “It’s not the bill I would have written on my own, it’s not the bill Republicans would have written. That’s compromise.”