On Thursday, November 19, House and Senate leaders participating in a joint conference committee approved a bipartisan framework to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bipartisan bill, which will be known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, reconciles elements from H.R. 5 and S. 1177, which the House and Senate respectively passed in July. This was the first time House and Senate leaders held a conference committee on ESEA since the passage of NCLB in 2001, and it is the closest we have come to reauthorization of the law since it expired in 2007.
The conference committee was composed of a bipartisan group of legislators from the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who recently announced his retirement, had been elected chairman of the conference committee.
Although NASSP did not have the opportunity to review the entire bill, we have already noted several significant wins for principals in this legislation, including the removal of adequate yearly progress (AYP) and the unworkable school turnaround models. We are also optimistic that our advocacy efforts will be successful in leading the bill to include a new program for recruiting and retaining school principals to work in high-need schools, clarify that a “school leader” is a principal within the school building, and encourage states to use more Title II funding for school leadership activities.
Several House Republicans, however, have already expressed concerns over the proposed framework, which is much less conservative than H.R. 5, which barely passed the House in July. A new pre-K program, no Title I portability language, weaker opt-out provisions, and not enough program consolidation are just a few of the problematic areas for those representatives.
The day before the reauthorization framework was approved, conferees had a chance to make opening remarks and lay out their personal priorities for the final conference report. The conference committee adjourned after opening remarks and resumed Thursday morning to vote on a handful of amendments. Of the 10 amendments offered, one was withdrawn, two were not agreed to, and seven were passed. A recap of the conference committee and amendments’ text can be viewed here.
While negotiations remained cordial, there was a spirited debate concerning Rep. Glenn Grothman’s (R-WI) amendment, which would have frozen the funding levels outlined in the bill for four years. The House conferees narrowly passed this amendment, but Senate conferees, following a passionate speech by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), voted the amendment down. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only conferee to vote against the overall proposed framework.
The text of the final bill will be available on Monday, November 30, and the House may vote on the bill during the first week of December. Sen. Alexander is hoping the bill will be brought up for a vote in the Senate as soon as December 7. If the bill passes in both chambers, it will be sent to President Obama, who is expected to sign this landmark legislation into law.
NASSP expects to support the final conference report once the language is released publicly; at which point, we will encourage all NASSP members to contact their legislators through the Principal’s Legislative Action Center.
As the long overdue ESEA reauthorization enters its final stages, NASSP will be sure to keep you updated on Twitter and through posts here on the School of Thought blog.