Sen. Patty Murray to Lead Senate Education Committee

Senator Patty Murray, D-WA, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, speaks during a hearing on the nomination of Rep Tom Price to be the next health and human services secretary in the Dirksen Senate Office Buillding on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 18, 2017. …
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will take the helm of the Senate committee that oversees education as Democrats effectively take control of that chamber with a 50-50 split with Republicans.

Murray will replace retired Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), with whom she wrote the massive legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the Bush-era No Child Left Behind.

As Education Week notes, Murray is a staunch supporter of assessment and accountability in government schools in order to ensure low-income and minority students receive the same advantages as white and Asian students.

Murray also has advocated for early childhood education and, during the Obama era, helped establish the federal Preschool Development Grants under the ESSA law.

Obama signed ESSA into law almost immediately in December 2015, calling the “bipartisan bill signing” a “Christmas miracle.”

Alexander and Murray praised each other continuously on the floor of the Senate prior to the vote on the conference bill, extolling the virtues of “bipartisanship” and “compromise.”

ESSA codified into federal law the preschool program and continued the federal mandate of annual testing in grades 3 through 8, and then again in high school. The law requires school districts to publicly report student test scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability, and English-language usage.

In addition, though Alexander claimed the law stopped the federal government from coercing states into using the Common Core standards, ESSA still requires the Education Secretary to approve state standards.

Like most Democrats, Murray has been highly critical of President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, primarily because of her focus on school choice.

“We’ve seen her repeatedly turn her back on students and educators and families because she was focused on privatizing our education system, which would drain the resources from our public schools even in a pandemic,” she said of DeVos.

Murray is expected to ask Congress to pass a new coronavirus relief package after Joe Biden is inaugurated, one that would include more taxpayer funds for K-12 schools.

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