The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to send its version of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, to the Senate. The House passed the Republican authored bill, H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act of 2015, with all Democrats and some strongly conservative Republicans voting against the bill. The final vote was 218-213.
The Student Success Act was originally debated on the House floor in February, but consideration was ultimately suspended. House Republican leadership blamed the delay on the need to address a looming shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, but it is widely recognized that an influential conservative group’s threat to score the vote negatively jeopardized the bill’s passage and leadership suspended the vote to avoid embarrassment. During today’s proceedings a few amendments were added to the agenda for consideration in order to appease concerned conservatives, namely the A-Plus amendment discussed below. The conservative group continued to oppose the bill today but chose not to score the vote. (NOTE: Scoring a vote is when a stakeholder group urges either a favorable or unfavorable vote and then uses each member’s individual vote to score their individual, overall performance. These votes and members’ overall scores are often used to support or unseat incumbents in the elections that follow.)
When proceedings on the full bill were postponed in February, eleven yet-to-be-voted-on amendments were also postponed. Some 27 amendments had already been adopted and the remaining eleven amendments were voted on today. Included among those passed amendments are:
- Amendment by Goodlatte (R-VA) – gives states the authority to allow school districts to design and administer local assessment systems in lieu of the state system.
- Amendment by Quigley (D-IL) – restores the qualifications required to be hired as a paraprofessional that are in place under current law.
- Amendment by Delaney (D-MD) – makes pay for success initiatives an allowable use of funds for states and school districts under certain parameters.
- Amendment by Polis (D-CO) – expresses the sense of Congress that charter schools are critical and must be supported by Congress.
- Amendment by Bonamici (D-OR) – allows states to use certain grant funds to audit and streamline assessment systems in order to eliminate unnecessary assessments and improve the use of assessments.
As mentioned above, some amendments were added to today’s debate, partly in order to gather support for the bill from strongly conservative Republicans. The new amendments included:
- Amendment by Walker (R-NC) – makes ESEA funding a block grant, allowing states to spend money how they see fit. (States currently receive funding through various formulas that direct money to states for specific purposes.) This is the “A-PLUS” amendment added in order to attract the conservative vote. However, the amendment failed 195-235.
- Amendment by Salmon (R-AZ) – allows parents to opt their children out of testing requirements under the law. The amendment passed 251-178.
- Amendment by Rokita (R-IN) – authorizes the law from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2019, which means ESEA would again face reauthorization in 2019. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
- Amendment by Polis (D-CO) – adds certain accountability measures back into law. Democrats have strongly opposed H.R. 5 because it removes much of the accountability measures in current law and they fear it will result in diminished education for children in subgroups, such as English language learners (ELL), minority, low income, and disabled students. This amendment was withdrawn.
Additionally, Democrats offered an amendment to strike the entire bill and replace it with a Democratic authored version of ESEA reauthorization, but that amendment was unsurprisingly rejected by the Republican controlled house. President Obama stands with Democrats in strong opposition to the Republican authored bill and intends to veto the Student Success Act if a similar version makes it to his desk.
The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, where the body is expected to begin work this week on its own version of a bill to reauthorize ESEA. The Senate bill is currently a bipartisan bill that contrasts the strictly partisan House bill. It is yet to be seen how bipartisan the Senate bill will remain once it hits the floor this week.
To catch up on the House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills, read our previous posts on the House bill here and the Senate bill here and here. Stay tuned to TeachtheVote.org for ESEA news as it unfolds.