House Passes ESEA Rewrite

DaveGriffithEarlier this morning, the House passed HR 5 by a vote of 221-207, with 12 Republicans and all of the Democrats voting against it. This is the first bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since NCLB expired nearly six years ago. The Democratic substitute bill was defeated by a party-line vote of 193-233, with one Republican, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), voting for it.

The bill requires states to continue to administer state assessments in grades 3–8 in English language arts and math. However, the bill gives states much greater discretion in creating their own accountability systems to measure school quality, determining which schools would receive interventions for chronic underperformance, and deciding what those school improvement strategies should be. In addition, the bill eliminates nearly 70 existing programs, many of which support subjects and disciplines that are critical to a well-rounded education. The bill also eliminates maintenance of effort requirements and sets funding levels for education programs at post-sequestration amounts.

During the debate, a number of amendments were successfully added to HR 5 that significantly undermine the bill, notably Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s provision that Title I funds would “follow the child” to whatever school the student attended, which would have the ultimate effect of reducing the amount of money Title I schools currently receive. An amendment was also approved that eliminates the bill’s requirement that states establish teacher evaluation systems, and instead makes such state evaluation systems optional.

Several national organizations such as the NEA and AFT opposed the bill before it was brought to the floor. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) supported the bill. ASCD has not yet taken a position on HR 5. Although the bill has its flaws, we felt it important that the House move the legislative process along, especially given the six-year delay in reauthorization and because there are still opportunities to influence the ESEA bill in the Senate (senators have the goal of bringing their bill to the Senate floor this fall) and in a House-Senate conference committee. ASCD’s letter that was sent to the House of Representatives earlier this week can be viewed here.

We will be providing more details about the specific provisions of HR 5 to Educator Advocates over the course of the next week. Sign up for weekly updates on HR 5, ESEA reauthorization, and all federal education policy developments via Capitol Connection.

David Griffith leads the development and implementation of ASCD’s legislative agenda, as well as ASCD’s efforts to influence education decision making at the local, state, and federal levels.