The U.S. House and Senate Conference Committee to Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind, held its first meeting this afternoon in Washington, DC. While the negotiations on the bill have largely been conducted prior to today’s hearing, the bill will still make its way through the formal conference committee process for final negotiations before it heads to both chambers for a final vote.
Today’s hearing was mostly pomp and circumstance, with all members of the committee having the opportunity to make opening statements. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), who also chairs the conference committee, laid out an anticipated timeline for the conference committee proceedings: the report (or final negotiated bill) will be released at the end of the month and final votes on the measure will take place in both chambers in early- to mid-December. This would allow for President Obama to sign the legislation prior to the Christmas break.
As we previously reported, the conference committee, which does not include a member of the Texas Congressional delegation, was established in late July after the U.S. House passed its version of a bill to reauthorize ESEA, H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act of 2015, on July 8, and the U.S. Senate followed quickly with the passage of S. 1177 – The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 on July 16.
There was large consensus among the committee that while the bill is perfect to none, it is a positive step in the right direction and it is time to act. The major sticking points of the bill have centered on accountability – Democrats want it bolstered, particularly with regard to educating student subgroups, while Republicans want to see more flexibility and control given to states and school districts.
It has been reported that the major policy contentions were resolved prior to today’s hearing. The deal is expected to increase spending levels, with small growth over time, and would be up for reauthorization once again in four years. Also among the expectations for the compromise bill according to reports: annual testing in grades 3-8 in reading and math with grade span testing in science, state-developed accountability systems, state-adopted “challenging” academic standards, interventions designed locally in the bottom five percent of schools and high school “failure factories,” and state-developed educator appraisal systems.
One very controversial piece included in H.R. 5, the portability language that allows Title I money to follow the child from school to school (rather than being sent schools experiencing high concentrations of qualified students), is not expected to be included in the negotiated bill (although a a pilot program could potentially offer some Title I portability at the state level). ATPE opposed the inclusion of this language in the bill via our letter to the Texas delegation earlier this month, and we encouraged Texas Congressmen to weigh in with leadership on their intent to see it omitted.
There are still several big hurdles ahead for ESEA reauthorization. Stay tuned for updates as the process continues.