House Narrowly Approves Renewal of ESEA

The Senate has passed its version of the new federal aid to education bill, originally named the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Now the House of Representatives has passed its version of the new rules for federal funding.

Passage fell narrowly along party lines on a vote of 218-213, with 27 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition to nearly derail it on the floor.

For most of the roll call, the bill had more votes against it than in favor. Many Republicans either held out their votes until the last minute or changed their votes under pressure from GOP leaders.

Conservative lawmakers had pushed for the adoption of several amendments allowing schools to opt out of No Child Left Behind requirements. Only one of those amendments, from Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), was adopted, with lawmakers voting 251-178 to allow parents to exempt their children from testing….

The Senate is currently considering a more bipartisan version of legislation to renew No Child Left Behind. If it passes, it will have to be reconciled with the more conservative House bill, which gives states more authority over education policy.

But even if Congress manages to negotiate a compromise, there’s no guarantee that President Obama will sign it, as the administration has expressed opposition to both the House and Senate bills.

The 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which included a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), expired in 2007. Congress has not passed legislation to extend it since then.

Since 2011, the Obama administration has been issuing waivers from No Child Left Behind in response to demands from governors and school districts.

Both the House and Senate bills prohibit the Department of Education from exerting control over state academic standards. The provisions would apply to Common Core, which establishes English and math standards for all grade levels through high school.

“Parents are becoming increasingly fed up with such constant and onerous testing requirements, as well as the teachers,” Salmon said during floor debate.

When Congress passed federal aid to education in 1965, the law was simply called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Period. Now, whenever the law is reauthorized, it is given an ambitious and absurd title, that claims impossible results. In 2001, it was No Child Left Behind. Almost 15 years later, can anyone claim that “no child was left behind?” Now the Senate bill is titled Every Child Achieves Act, as though something in the bill will miraculously insure that every child will achieve. Sorry, Virginia, there is no tooth fairy. And the House bill is as rhetorically nonsensical, called the Student Success Act. Please, someone, call it the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Its original purpose was to send money to schools and districts enrolling impoverished students, where materials were obsolete and class sizes bulged. Nothing in the act of 1965 said that it was guaranteed to raise test scores, to leave no child behind, to make students achieve or succeed.

Rhetorical candor would be refreshing.

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