More details on U.S. Senate HELP committee’s ESEA reauthorization bill

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) met last week to markup a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The committee considered over 50 amendments to The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which is co-authored by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and ultimately passed the measure unanimously, 22-0.

The markup was conducted over a three day period that was closely managed by both authors in order to prevent controversial amendments from jeopardizing the bill’s bipartisan path forward. In the end, of the 57 amendments considered, 29 were adopted. Controversial amendments including issues such as vouchers and teacher evaluation requirements were kept off of the bill, but those debates are still expected to be had when the bill hits the full senate. Leaders have said that will be later this year, but no debate has been scheduled yet.

Below is a listing of the amendments passed during the committee markup as well as a few noteworthy amendments either withdrawn or defeated during committee.

Amendments adopted:

  • Amendment by Baldwin: creates grants for enhanced assessment instruments and audits of state and local assessment systems.
  • Amendment by Baldwin: requires the reporting of students with career and technical proficiency on report cards.
  • Amendment by Baldwin: provides grants to initiate, expand, and improve physical education programs.
  • Amendment by Baldwin: authorizes grants to encourage the use of technology to improve college and career readiness.
  • Amendment by Bennet: reduces the burden on districts with regard to reporting data for annual report cards.
  • Amendment by Bennet: pertains to financial literacy and federal financial aid awareness efforts.
  • Amendment by Bennet: allows funds to be used for the creation of teacher and principal preparation academies.
  • Amendment by Bennet: increases engagement from the U.S. Secretary of Education to assist rural school districts with competitive grants.
  • Amendment by Bennet: creates grants for education innovation and research aimed at high-needs students.
  • Amendment by Bennet: establishes a weighted student funding flexibility pilot program.
  • Amendment by Burr: alters the funding formula for teachers and leaders to be based 80 percent on poverty and 20 percent on population.
  • Amendment by Burr: adds a hold-harmless provision for Title II formula funding for teachers and leaders by mandating a 14.29 percent reduction each year over seven years. This amendment barely passed: 11-10.
  • Amendment by Casey: authorizes funding for Ready-To-Learn Television.
  • Amendment by Casey: reinserts hold-harmless language in Title II, Part A. This amendment was later amended by Burr’s narrowly passed hold-harmless amendment mentioned above.
  • Amendment by Casey: creates a grant program for districts that wish to reduce exclusionary discipline practices.
  • Amendment by Collins: creates an Innovative Assessment and Accountability Pilot.
  • Amendment by Franken: reinstates the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program.
  • Amendment by Franken: allows computer-adapted testing and adds other assessment criteria.
  • Amendment by Franken: supports accelerated learning programs.
  • Amendment by Franken: adds language to improve STEM instruction and achievement.
  • Amendment by Franken: creates a grant program for schools that utilize Native American languages for instruction with their students.
  • Amendment by Isakson: allows parents to opt out of testing.
  • Amendment by Mikulski: adds the Javits Gifted/Talented Students Education Act of 2015.
  • Amendment by Murkowski: reinstates 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
  • Amendment by Murphy: ensures that states work to reduce physical and mental abuse related to seclusion/restraint.
  • Amendment by Murray: requires reporting of data on military-connected students.
  • Amendment by Murray:  authorizes Project SERV allowing for services to schools in the aftermath of violent events.
  • Amendment by Murray:  authorizes early learning alignment and improvement grants.
  • Amendment by Whitehouse: establishes a program for literacy and arts education.

Additional amendments of note:

  • Amendment by Scott: would have given states the option to let Title I funds follow a student to any school, including private schools. Scott ultimately withdrew his portability amendment because of the controversial nature, but this is likely to be an amendment debated on the senate floor. Chairman Alexander said he looked forward to voting for such an amendment in the full senate.
  • Amendment by Warren: would have required states to describe how methods used for evaluation were reasonable and reliable, if a state chose to implement an evaluation system. Chairman Alexander said it would unnecessarily put federal requirements on state evaluation systems. The amendment failed on a 10-12 roll call vote.
  • Amendments by Alexander and Casey: would have dealt with bullying. The two offered dueling amendments regarding bullying and underwent extensive debate. Both eventually withdrew their amendments with the expectation to debate the issue again on the senate floor.

Other amendment topics not adopted in committee markup but that could be addressed on the senate floor include Title I comparability (a means of equalizing funding between schools with differing levels of need), interventions for struggling schools, and additional targeted support for certain student populations. Stay tuned for updates once a floor debate is scheduled.

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5 thoughts on “More details on U.S. Senate HELP committee’s ESEA reauthorization bill

  1. Heather Klossner

    What is the status of the comparability loophole in Title I funding? (This is the loophole that prevents – among other issues – comparability to be based on a district’s per pupil spending between Title I and non-Title I schools.) I noticed a reference to an amendment by Burr that changes the formula to 80% on poverty and 20% on population. Is that related?

  2. Kate Kuhlmann

    Heather, the Burr amendment you referenced dealt with Title II funding formulas. The comparability loophole in Title I funding is not addressed in this bill. Senator Bennett (D-CO) did offer an amendment to address the loophole by requiring districts to include teacher salaries in their comparability determinations, but he ultimately withdrew his amendment. There is support for this and even Chairman Alexander (R-TN) acknowledged during markup that the funding loophole is a problem. However, Republicans, including the chairman, are advocates for changing the formulas altogether so that Title I money follows the individual child instead of being directed to districts/schools; this concept is commonly referred to as Title I portability. Both the portability and comparability amendments were offered during the markup, but both were pulled down. This is a debate that you can expect will be had by the full Senate.

    Note for others reading this comment: NCLB/ESEA currently requires districts to show that they are equally (or comparably) funding Title I and non-Title I schools throughout the district in order to utilize Title I dollars. The “comparability loophole” refers to the fact that as long as districts are on a salary schedule, which Texas currently requires for all teachers in the state, and teacher-student ratios are equivalent among schools then districts are not required to show comparability of teachers’ salaries. This is problematic because districts can still employ Title I schools with novice and lower paid teachers while employing non-Title I schools with experienced and higher paid teachers.

    1. Heather Klossner

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for your reply! I’m a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music (U of Rochester) and am researching the effect of the comparability loophole on the family. (My overall research interest is music education in urban elementary settings.) In addition to presenting our findings on the effect of our chosen policy, we were challenged to create an action project. Mine is a YouTube about the comparability loophole –
      Thank you again for your work!
      Best regards,
      Heather Klossner

      P.S. I’m also a retired Texas public school teacher. 🙂

      1. Kate Kuhlmann

        Good luck with your project and doctoral studies, Heather, and thank you for your work as a Texas public school teacher!

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