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House Committee Passes ESEA, 2013
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Legislative News

June 19, 2013

On June 19, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed its bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind, NCLB). The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed its version the previous week. Since the House majority is Republican and the Senate is Democratic, the two bills look very different.

In his opening statement as the House Committee began consideration of the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), Chairman Kline (R-MN) stated that NCLB had left schools with "a mountain of red tape" and little room for innovation. He outlined four "pillars" on which H.R. 5 is based:(a) reducing the federal footprint in education; (b) restoring local control; (c) shifting the focus from "highly qualified teachers" to "highly effective teachers"; and (d) empowering parents.

Ranking Democrat George Miller (D-CA) said in his opening statement that the bill is a "step in the wrong direction" and does not make the changes required to meet students' needs. He noted that no one believes the rewrite of the ESEA should be as rigid as No Child Left Behind, but that the real fight is about "equity."

There were only three amendments offered.

  • The first was a full Republican substitute for the Chairman's bill offered by Rep. Rokita (R-IN), which included a few small changes to the underlying bill. The amendment passed on a party-line vote as the replacement for the bill introduced by Chairman Kline.
  • A second non-controversial amendment passed (Sponsor: Rep. Heck (R-NV) which encourages school districts to expand dual enrollment and early college high school programs.
  • The final amendment considered by the Committee was a Democratic substitute offered by Rep. Miller as a full substitute for the Republican bill. The amendment failed on a party-line vote.

The extended discussion about both the Rokita and Miller substitutes pointed up the major philosophical differences between the two parties. Simply put, the Republican bill would seriously reduce federal involvement, oversight, and funding for education, while the Democratic bill is similar to the Senate majority bill with a strong focus on accountability and performance targets and consideration of school climate and barriers to learning.

It is difficult to see how the Senate and House bills can be reconciled in a conference committee. However, before that step, each bill must be passed in the respective chambers. House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) has said he will allow floor time for the bill in July. It is unclear at this time what the Senate schedule will be. It remains to be seen if this bill will clear both chambers before the end of the year.

SSWAA Legislative Advocacy Team
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See also the  History of ESEA as well as SSWAA's recommendations for ESEA.


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