Skip to content

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., a member of the Senate-House education conference committee, said the conference report passed today will usher in a new and positive era of learning for America's children.

"This education plan builds upon the hard work of educators in Wyoming and solidifies the shared commitment to academic achievement for all children. It is the most significant education reform since 1965," said Enzi.

Enzi, who contributed to the bill through his service on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, said the bill would reauthorize for the next seven years the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which expired in 2000.

Enzi said the bill is designed to improve the nation's public schools by streamlining ESEA programs, shrinking the number from 55-45 to maximize efficiency. The education bill also targets resources to existing programs that serve underprivileged students, and applies "dollars to the classroom" principles to increase the federal funds spent at the local level to 95 percent.

Enzi said what is particularly good for Wyoming is the greater flexibility in the use of federal funds for rural and local districts, increased access to technology and improved teacher quality.

The bill would give more flexibility to rural and local school districts by enabling them to shift funding designated for specific purposes to other uses that would better meet the school's needs. Districts would also be able to combine funding from various programs and could use funds for many ESEA authorized activities including educational technology, professional development, technical assistance and teacher recruitment and retention.

"Rural school districts face challenges that larger school districts do not face," said Enzi. "This legislation provides greater fairness for rural school districts by giving local school officials more say in how federal funds are used."

The legislation would also help improve the use of technology in classrooms by consolidating current technology programs into targeted state programs.

Enzi said this would help small states, which may not receive enough money from a particular program, to more effectively adapt funds to meet their technology needs. It would also make it easier for schools to apply for competitive grants traditionally used to allocate technology funding.

"Because of their remote locations, rural schools have unique technology and communications infrastructure challenges," said Enzi. "Rural schools would be given the ability to use federal funds to implement the technology programs they believe will be most useful to students."

The education plan would also assist local school districts in the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.

Current programs would be combined into a new Teacher Quality Program to allow local school districts to use funds for professional development, recruitment and the hiring of teachers. In addition, local schools would be given the ability to make spending decisions with a greater percentage of the federal funds they receive. They could then decide to use those funds for the hiring of new teachers, increasing teacher pay and improving teacher training and development, among other uses.

"Every student should have the chance to learn from a highly-qualified teacher," said Enzi. "The need to recruit and retain good teachers is essential to the education of our children."

Enzi said the bill, for the first time, would ask states to develop their own annual statewide assessments to show progress toward narrowing the achievement gap. Verification of results from these assessments would be done by a "confirming test" of a small sample of students in each state. Supplemental services for tutoring, after school services, summer school programs would be required to be offered to children in schools that fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the third year after a confirming test. Title I funds of approximately $500 to $1,000 per child could be used for these programs. This bill for the first time will allow these supplemental services to be provided by faith based organizations.

Enzi said the bill would also lay the groundwork for important reforms in special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the next major education reform project.

"This bill reflects an understanding of the various needs of individual schools," said Enzi. "I believe we have, through long hours, days and months developed a bill that outlines an appropriate role for the federal partnership in elementary and secondary education."

The conference report must next be approved by both the full Senate and House before it is sent to the President to sign.