CHN: No Child Left Behind Overhaul Moves through Congress

The Senate last Thursday passed (81-17) a bipartisan overhaul of the No Child Left Behind federal education law. The passage of the bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), came a week after the House narrowly passed (218-213) its version, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Both bills would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and shrink the federal government’s role while giving more power to state and local agencies, but the House version is seen by many advocates as being more conservative.
Politico noted that the House version would allow for a voucher system, which is opposed by Democrats and the White House. The Senate voted down similar amendments. The Senate bill provides for greater access to early childhood education, unlike the House bill. According to the National Education Association, an amendment to make career and technical education a core subject passed in the Senate, while an amendment to convert ESEA funding into a block grant program failed. The National Women’s Law Center noted its disappointment that the Senate bill fails to that require critical education resources be allocated to the most disadvantaged students.

Representatives and Senators will meet in conference committee to hammer out the differences between the two bills and come up with a compromise bill that, if passed by both chambers, will go to the White House. The Administration issued a veto threat against H.R. 5 in February saying the bill’s caps on federal education spending would lock in budget cuts for the rest of the decade and that the bill “would allow funds currently required to be used for education to be used for other purposes, such as spending on sports stadiums or tax cuts for the wealthy.” The White House urged specific changes to S. 1177, mainly around accountability, but called it “an important step forward” and said the Administration “remains committed to working with the Congress on a bipartisan approach to replace NCLB with a law that expands opportunity for all of America’s children.” The No Child Left Behind Act technically expired in 2007, but Congress’s failure to pass a new education law since then means that NCLB remains intact.

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