If you’ve been following our action alerts and policy news about H.R.5 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), then you know we think the education bill that passed last Friday in the House of Representatives stinks. Children with learning difficulties and disabilities deserve better. Over the last week, 2,185 of you agreed and emailed Congress. Now, many of you are probably wondering, did my letter to Congress make a difference? It absolutely did, and here’s how.
First, the bill only passed by five votes. Almost half of the House, including every Democrat and 12 Republicans, voted against the bill. Out of 435 members, 207 voted no. Passing a bill under such a slim margin says a lot about the amount of opposition.
Second, during the debate on the House floor, some members who voted for the bill also said that the bill wasn’t as good as it could be for students with disabilities. For example, both Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) said they wanted to see improvements.
Third, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the highest-ranking Democrat who voted against the bill, eloquently summarized the problems with the bill and specifically cited NCLD and our community’s opposition. He acknowledged that you—all of you who spoke out—didn’t support the bill.
Here’s the deal with policy work—it's a long game, kind of like life. Easy “wins” are hard to come by. The reality is that it takes a lot of small victories over a long time to create change. Does that remind you of anything else? It reminds me of what we tell our children, our students and all individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities about how to handle the challenges in front of them. Stay strong, be persistent and continue to advocate for yourself. Can we really tell them to do this if we don’t do it ourselves? Staying committed over time to positive change is just walking the talk.
So, pack a big suitcase and join us on this long journey. Together we are strong, we are persistent and we will continue to speak out. Your letter mattered and all of our kids deserve it. Remember this vote was not the last word, and we’ll update you in a few months about how to resume the struggle for an inclusive and equitable reauthorization of ESEA.
Feel like you need more information? Read a press release by James H. Wendorf, our executive director, on the passage of H.R.5.