After Long Delay, House Approves ESEA Reauthorization Bill

Months after their bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was pulled from the floor due to a lack of votes, the House squeaked through final passage of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) in a 218-213 vote on July 8. If enacted, the bill would replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act as the law governing elementary, middle, and high schools.

“For too long, Washington’s priorities have outweighed what parents, teachers, and local leaders know is best for their children,” said House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) in a press release about the bill’s passage. “Today, we took an important step in a bold, new direction. After years of working with education stakeholders and members of Congress, I’m pleased the House has advanced responsible reforms that would give the American people what they deserve: a commonsense law that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”

Before the final vote, the House considered a series of amendments, including one offered by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) to add the A Plus Act to the bill. NASSP strongly opposed this proposal, which would have consolidated a number of federal programs into a block grant and allowed states to direct the funding to any purpose under state law. Fortunately, the amendment was defeated in a 195-235 vote.

The House approved the following amendments before final passage:

  • An amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to allow parents to opt their students out of the testing requirements under the bill and exempt schools from including those students in their 95 percent participation requirement (approved 251-178)
  • An amendment by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) to have the bill’s authorization expire in FY 2019 instead of FY 2021 (approved by voice vote)
  • An amendment by Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) to authorize a competitive grant for the implementation and evaluation of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs in rural schools (approved 218-213)
  • An amendment by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to allow states to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (approved 373-57)
  • An amendment by Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) to express the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information is important to protect (approved 424-2)

House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered a substitute amendment that would have totally replaced the text of H.R. 5 with his own proposal, but that amendment failed on a 187-244 vote. Democrats also offered a motion to recommit, which is a parliamentary maneuver to allow those opposed to the bill to further voice their concerns. That motion also was defeated by a vote of 185-244.

NASSP, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), had formally opposed H.R. 5 when the bill was first considered in February. While we are pleased that the bill would eliminate adequate yearly progress and the 100 proficiency requirements in NCLB, remove the unworkable school turnaround models in the School Improvement Grants program, and cap the amount of Title II funds that may be used for class size reduction, we feel that the bad outweighs the good. In our letter to Chairman Kline, we expressed concern about the authorization levels in the bill for Title I; a proposal to make Title I portable; the lack of mandatory funding for professional development; and no additional resources for middle and high schools, literacy, or education technology.

All eyes now turn to the Senate, which began debate on its ESEA reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), on July 7. The bill had been introduced as a bipartisan bill after a unanimous vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on April 23.

Over the past three days, the Senate has considered a number of amendments with many more expected to be filed before final passage, which is expected early next week. In a big win for public schools, the Senate rejected, 45-52, an amendment offered by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would have authorized a $24 billion private school voucher program by eliminating numerous programs authorized under ESEA. The Senate also rejected the A Plus amendment offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) by a vote of 44-54.

The NASSP advocacy staff will continue to follow the Senate debate this week, so be sure to follow Amanda Karhuse (@akarhuse) and David Chodak (@dnchodak) on Twitter for live updates.

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