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National Council of La Raza Honors Alexander, Murray for Work on ESSA

Speaking before the nation's largest Latino civil rights organization, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pledged that Congress will hold states and school districts accountable for providing effective education for English-language learners.

Murray addressed the National Council of La Raza at the group's Capital Awards in Washington on Tuesday. La Raza honored Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., for their roles in the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation's new federal K-12 law.

The law will shift accountability for English-learners from Title III—the section of the federal law that previously authorized aid to states and local school districts for English-language-acquisition programs—to Title I, the federal program under which the performance of all other student groups is scrutinized.

The shift from Title III to Title I is an indication that the law will do more to hold all schools, not just those with significant ELL enrollments, accountable for the education of non-native English-speaking students, who are overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking Latinos.

"We will hold states and school districts accountable for providing effective English-language programs," Murray said Tuesday night. "We cannot rest until states and local school districts implement this law in a way that works for all students. It's so important that NCLR stays involved at the local level to hold schools and states' feet to the fire to ensure that every student can succeed."

Alexander, the chairman of the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Murray, the committee's lead Democrat, helped shepherd the legislation through Congress. President Barack Obama signed the legislation in December.

"From the outset, Chairman Alexander and I knew we were not going to agree on everything. But instead of going down a partisan path and letting politics get in the way, we agreed to work together to find common ground," Murray said. 

"The fact is, we know what happens when we don't hold our schools and states accountable for educating all students. Invariably, it's the kids from poor neighborhoods, kids of color, kids who are learning English, and kids with disabilities who too often fall through the cracks."

While accepting the award, Murray advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and said that the Supreme Court's pending decision on Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be "momentous." DACA allows students who came to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation.

"It's time for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of children and families," Murray said.

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