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The Original ESEA: Only 32 Pages

December 10, 2015

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the latest revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) into law.

This latest ESEA version, called the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), is 1,061 pages long and will replace the 670-page No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

ESEA has become really complicated, and through it, the federal government has made standardized testing its centerpiece and has shaped the document in favor of market-based education reform.

The original ESEA (April 11,1965) was only 32 pages long and was itself an amended version of Public Law 81-874 (“Impact Aid”), an effort for the federal government to assist public education costs that were impacted by federal defense. (Read more about PL 81-874 here.)

ESEA of 1965 was originally comprised of six titles (the primary one was Title I, ten pages long):

Title I: Financial Assistance to Local Education Agencies for the Education of Children of Low-income Families and Extension of Public Law 874, Eighty-first Congress

Title II: School Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials

Title III: Supplementary Educational Centers and Services

Title IV: Educational Research and Training

Title V: Grants to Strengthen State Departments of Education

Title VI: General Provisions

Near the end of the 1965 ESEA document is the following:

FEDERAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION PROHIBITED SEC. 604. Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.

Arne Duncan has certainly pushed the envelope on this one.

By November 1966, ESEA was amended to include “Education of Handicapped Children” as Title VI (with some other title changes; full doc totaling 32 pages). In January 1968, the ESEA was amended again; titles changed some more, with notable changes including Title IV, “Provisions for Adequate Leadtime and for Planning and Evaluation in Elementary and Secondary Education Programs” (concerns advance funding for evaluating ESEA programs) and Title VII, “Bilingual Education.” The amendments totaled 38 pages.

And in January 1969, ESEA was reauthorized for the first time and extended for seven years.  The House ed committee amendments for the 1969 reauthorization required only a single page.

Fifty years after the initial ESEA, we’re at 1,061 pages that were finalized out of view of the public and altered accordingly to secure hurried Congressional votes and an exiting, charter-under-regulating, test-happy president’s signature.

I think this ESSA is in for public resistance heretofore unknown to ESEA. The public is surely more aware (and more critical) of this ESEA reauthorization than it was of any of the previous reauthorizations, NCLB included– and rightly so.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published in June 2015.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. It is time to kiss the US Dept. of Education good-bye and repeal ESEA.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Excellent commentary. See also some observations of Susan Ohanian on her experience with the benefits of early ESEA for teachers.

  3. ira shor permalink

    Let’s hope you’re right about public opposition to ESSA being even greater than that to CCSS and its testing/privatizing tilts.

  4. If you read this blog- please help support it- Mercedes won’t ask but I am not shy 😉 Thanks to those of you who have already helped out!

  5. Christina permalink

    Mercedes, I know you have been critical (rightly so) of the process, but perhaps some insight on the abominable content.

  6. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed throughout this process. You are amazing, slogging through all the pages upon pages of this cr*p. Your critical analysis and explanations were a welcome and needed resource for those of us trying to follow the process and be involved as much as possible.

  7. Virginia Starrett permalink

    From your column to God’s ears! I can only hope the public will mount an outcry. Nothing in this new government whipping stick will in any way slowdown the data mining that I think is actually the ultimate goal of Common Core all along.

  8. Ken Watanabe permalink

    ESEA(1965): 32 pages
    ESSA(2015) : 1061 pages

    I bet DOE has accumulated +1,000 pages of garbage worth weighing +1,000 billion tons of trash in 50 years.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Much Ado About an Enigma – No One Really Knows What Impact the ESSA Will Have on Public Schools | gadflyonthewallblog
  2. Mercedes Schneider: The Original ESEA Was 32 Pages Long; ESSA is 1,016 Pages Long | Diane Ravitch's blog

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