The Senate and House Education Committees have now both passed partisan bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was last reauthorized by the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) in 2002.
First, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, recently introduced the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013,” which was sponsored by all Senate HELP Committee Democrats. The Committee then quickly marked-up the bill on June 11th by a party-line vote of 12-10. The bill is slated to come to the Senate floor later this summer.
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act seeks to ensure that all of America’s children graduate college- and career-ready. While NCLB provided important information on student performance and accountability for federal dollars, Committee Democrats feel like it “unintentionally lead to lower standards, a narrowing of curriculum and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to school improvement.”
HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) voted against the bill, which he referred to as a “national school board.”
Then, on June 19, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Representative John Kline (R-MN), approved the “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5) by a party-line vote of 23-16. The bill is slated to be on the House floor sometime in July.
Subcommittee Chairman Rokita said of the bill, “The Student Success Act gives parents, teachers, and state and local leaders the flexibility they need to ensure that every child has an opportunity for a successful future. By preventing excessive federal intrusion in our classrooms, eliminating the existing system of waivers and mandates, and ensuring that parents are equipped with more meaningful information about school performance, we are providing a better way forward for our education system.”
House Education and Workforce Ranking Member George Miller blasted the bill, saying, “Republicans have passed an extreme bill that will never be signed by the president, ensuring that this broken law (No Child Left Behind) will remain in place.”
Given the partisan nature of both bills, it is not clear how and if the two bills can be reconciled to result in a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization this year.
To review the text of the Strengthening America’s School Act, go here.
Additional information about the Student Success Act can be found here.