Senate Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill, Sets Stage for Conference Committee

Less than two weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives moved to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by passing the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), the Senate followed suit by passing the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) by a vote of 81 to 17.

This historic achievement comes seven years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was due for reauthorization. The bill was opposed by 14 Republicans who felt the bill did not go far enough to restore local control in education and three Democrats because of concerns over missing civil rights provisions.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued the following statement after the bill passed the Senate:

“Last week, Newsweek Magazine called this the ‘law that everyone wants to fix’—and today the Senate’s shown that not only is there broad consensus on the need to fix this law—remarkably, there’s also broad consensus on how to fix it.”

HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) was also pleased with the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act:

 “Today, the Senate cleared a major hurdle with this strong bipartisan vote to fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law, but we still have important work to do as this bill moves to a conference and before it is signed into law.”

Throughout this process, the Senate considered 78 amendments, 66 of which were adopted. You can access the Committee for Education Funding’s complete list of the results for each amendment here.

Some of the more notable amendments that passed were:

  • An amendment by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to establish a Student Privacy Policy Committee to conduct a study on the effectiveness of federal laws and enforcement mechanisms along with parental rights to student information (passed 89-0)
  • An amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to modify the Title I funding formula (passed 59-39)
  • An amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to require local education agencies to inform parents of any state or local education agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year (passed 97-0)
  • An amendment by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to provide for early college high school and dual or concurrent enrollment opportunities (passed by voice vote)
  • An amendment by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) to require States to establish a limit on the aggregate amount of time spent on assessments (passed by voice vote)

Some of the noteworthy amendments that failed were:

  • An amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to allow parents to opt their children out of federally mandated assessments (failed 32-64)
  • An amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools (failed 52-45)
  • An amendment by Sen. Chris Murphy to increase subgroup accountability for underperforming groups (failed 43-54)
  • An amendment by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to reinstate grants to improve the mental health of children (failed 58-39)
  • An amendment by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to ensure that states measure and report on indicators of student access to critical educational resources and identify disparities in such resources (failed 46-50)
  • An amendment by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to allow federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children to follow low-income children to accredited public or private schools (failed 45-52)
  • An amendment by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) to allow states to opt out of federal education regulations while continuing to received federal funds
  • An amendment by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) to provide mandatory funding for universal pre-K education (failed 45-52)

While NASSP supported the bill, there are several aspects that must be improved during conference committee. NASSP along with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) issued a joint statement on the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act.

Now that the House and Senate have both passed bills to reauthorize ESEA, a bipartisan group of representatives and senators will go to conference committee to try and resolve the major differences between the two bills. It is still unclear when the conference committee will occur and it could take several weeks—if not months—before a bill is produced that can pass both chambers while also receiving support from President Obama.

The NASSP advocacy staff will continue to follow the reauthorization of ESEA, so be sure to follow Amanda Karhuse (@akarhuse) and David Chodak (@dnchodak) on Twitter for updates.

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