Blog: The Educated Reporter

No Child Left Behind News and Updates

Yesterday a Senate committee approved a bill to rewrite No Child Left behind, the nation’s chief federal education law of the land, on a vote of 12-10.

This marks the second time since 2011 that the legislative body approved an overhaul to the contentious legislation.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee spent two days going over the roughly 1,100 words to the bill, with numerous amendments shot down on mostly party lines.

A Republican amendment to strip the U.S. Secretary of Education’s ability to grant waivers was blocked by Democrats. The move would have put the Obama Administration’s NCLB waivers in jeopardy. Democrats also blocked Republican amendments to include some Title I funding for school vouchers, rollback the president’s signature Race to the Top education program, and language that would have permitted federal dollars to follow disadvantaged students to any public school.

The bill’s size was also mocked by Republicans, with Lamar Alexander, the ranking senator from Tennessee, proposing an amendment to shorten the entire bill to 200 pages. It was blocked on party lines.

Several amendments supported by Democrats were also rejected, including one to create an office in the education department for rural education.

Below is a roundup of what news outlets have posted about the vote.

[See EWA's Story Starter on No Child Left Behind]

Huffington Post: “The ‘Strengthening America’s Schools Act’ is an over 1,000-page bill authored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. It rolls back some of the more stringent aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act, but keeps in place the requirement that states set and report performance targets for their students. Senators sparred over the federal government’s role in education when considering the overhaul, with Republicans calling Harkin’s bill a federal overreach.”

The Associated Press, via Washington Post: “’He has the states over a barrel,’ said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the panel.

“[Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan already has given 37 states and the District of Columbia permission to ignore parts of No Child Left Behind in exchange for overhaul plans. Those waivers emerged as a fault line between the parties, with Democrats defending the moves as necessary to avoid harsh penalties for failing to meet requirements and Republicans claiming Duncan abused his authority.”

Education Week: “Advocates noted that there was a lot less energy in the hearing room compared to two years ago and very few committee members stuck around for debate. At one point, Harkin actually yelled at Senate staffers to get their bosses back to the markup after a lunch break because there weren’t enough lawmakers present to take any votes on amendments. (Maybe senators skipped out because they don’t think this bill is really going anywhere?) Harkin did give a perfect attendance award to a new member of the panel, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is quickly becoming a hero to a lot of liberals.”

AP: “If the Senate version of the rewritten bill becomes law, the other states would have to write similar plans that meet Duncan’s standards.

“Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, were preparing to start work on their own version. Their rewrite process was set to start next week and House leaders want to have a vote this summer on their version.

“Senate Leader Harry Reid has not scheduled a vote and aides suggest it could be autumn or later.”

HuffPost: “If no alternative is passed, the current No Child Left Behind law will continue to stand, along with the Obama administration’s waiver system. In the fall of 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would allow states to apply for waivers from some of NCLB’s most stringent provisions in exchange for agreeing to adopt some of its education policies, such as teacher evaluations that take student test scores into account.”

[See EWA's Story Starter on  Federal K-12 Reform and Funding]

Education Week: “What happens now? Given Harkin’s and Alexander’s statements, the legislation actually has an outside chance of advancing to the floor of the Senate—which would be a big deal. The Senate hasn’t considered an ESEA bill, since, well No Child Left Behind in 2001, which took almost two months to debate.

“Plus, the House is slated to consider its very different ESEA bill on the floor this summer. House action could add to the pressure on the Senate. But it’s very hard to imagine that the two bills could be reconciled into something that President Barack Obama would actually sign by the end of the year. (So hope you like those waivers, states!)”

 Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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