After two days of debate and consideration of nearly 90 amendments, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a historic, 22-0, vote on April 16. The Every Child Achieves Act was the end result of weeks of bipartisan negotiations between Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and their leadership was evident throughout the cordial committee debate.
NASSP was pleased that the first amendment approved by committee would authorize a competitive grant for states and districts to audit their assessment systems, including the number of tests and the time spent on test-taking, in order to reduce redundant or unnecessary state and district assessments. The amendment was based on the SMART Act (S. 907) and introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who also sponsored the bill.
Another amendment strongly supported by NASSP would authorize the Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-TECH) program to provide technology-specific professional development for teachers to compliment the acquisition of infrastructure and hardware in the classroom. Districts would be required to spend 50% of the grant funds on professional development related to digital learning. The amendment was based on the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act and introduced by Sen. Baldwin who also sponsored the bill.
Other amendments supported by NASSP that passed would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program and require state, local and school report cards to include information on the number of students attaining career and technical education proficiencies.
NASSP also supported a number of amendments that were offered, but then withdrawn, pertaining to middle schools, high school redesign, the definition of profession-ready teachers and principals, and nondiscrimination of LGBT students. Our hope is that the sponsors of those amendments will be able to find Republican cosponsors and then offer them again on the Senate floor.
Controversial amendments, such as those pertaining to Title I portability and private school vouchers, were also withdrawn, but Senators Alexander and Tim Scott (R-SC) both indicated that they would introduce them on the Senate floor.
Alexander announced his hope that the full Senate would consider the Every Child Achieves Act before Memorial Day. The floor debate is expected to be much more contentious since there will be an open amendment process that allows Senators to offer any amendment related to K-12 education, which could cause some Democrats to oppose the bill in the end.