Peter Greene wonders why the excitement over the Every Student Succeeds Act (replacing No Child Left Behind, which says the same thing). How do you spell NCLB backwards? ESSA.

 

If the Tea Party and right-wing extremists control your state, you still have to fight for the survival of public schools and professional educators.

 

The ESSA doesn’t settle anything. It doesn’t solve anything. Every argument and battle that supporters of public schools (and the teachers and students whowork and learn in public schools) will still be fought– the difference is that now those arguments will be held in state capitols instead of Washington DC.

 

Depending on your state, that may be good news. Or it may be that the best we can say is that your state government isn’t any worse, and they live closer to you.

 

There are definite advantages. State government officials are easier to find, to get to, to contact, to talk to. When a single state decides to implement terrible policy, they won’t be implementing it for the entire country. And there are now plenty of groups that have become very accomplished and effective at making themselves heard in their home state (looking at you, New York opt outers).

 

Both those who love it and those who hate it, I think, missing the most important feature. ESSA replaces a great deal of the old “you must do” this language with “you may do this” language and even “you could get money for this but you have several choices here” language.

 

ESSA makes it possible to take many important steps forward. It also makes it possible for states to step backward. The steps that are taken will be decided state by state, and the same players who have worked hard to break down public education are still right there, still well-funded, still fully committed to the goals they have pursued for over a decade. It is absolutely critical that advocates for public education keep the pressure up on state governments. Congress has taken an unprecedented step in returning some power and control to the states; now we have to make sure that power is well used and that all students, schools and teachers receive the support and the tools needed to do the job we signed up to do.

 

The struggle is not over. It has just shifted venue. Get ready for the next rounds of debate– all fifty of them. The one big change is the, unlike its predecessors, ESSA mandates relatively few things. But it opens the doors of opportunity wide to many many things, both good and bad. It’s up to all of us to be vigilant about what walks through those doors.