The US House and Senate have now passed a bill to replace No Child Left Behind with the intent of diminishing the federal government’s role in public education.
Both bills include pre-existing national reading, science, and math tests, but allow states to decide on a system of performance assessment using the results of those tests. Both bills also prevent the Education Department from requiring states to adopt or stick with any set of standards, nor can they give incentives to encourage them.
The Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, passed 81 to 17, writes Whittney Evans of KUER. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, helped develop the bill. He feels that No Child Left Behind put too much emphasis on testing, and said on the Senate floor:
Instead of sending artificial and unattainable requirements, the new legislation allows states to set their own standards for success.
Some, including Republican Senator Mike Lee, say that the bill doesn’t go far enough to reverse federal control of education.
The House bill, the Student Success Act, passed 218 to 213. It also gives more power to the states, but allows federal funding to “follow” students to transfer out of schools with high poverty rates. According to Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times, this means that students from low-income families would continue to receive extra funding regardless of where they live.
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia prefers the Senate version. She said:
We were able to convince that critical mass of Republicans and Democrats– it is a true bipartisan bill– that the era of test and punish has to end, that that actually works against our most vulnerable children.
Now that the bill has passed both halves of Congress, they will work together to create a final bill that will go to the White House to be signed. According to Jennifer C. Kerr of the Associated Press, the president has previously threatened to veto the House’s version of the bill. However, legislators are confident that they will be able to agree on a final version that will meet with presidential approval.
Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and said of the bills:
50 million children and 3.5 million teachers deserve to get a result, and we should be able to achieve that this fall. While there are important differences, the consensus supporting the framework for the House and Senate bills is the same: continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.
Louie Brogdon of the Times Free Press quotes Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who leads the House’s Education and the Workforce Committee:
There is a lot of work to do in the coming months, and I am confident we will be able to craft a bicameral education bill that reduces the federal role, restores local control, and empowers parents and education leaders. Those are the kind of education reforms the American people expect and we must deliver.