Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate each passed bills to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). On July 30, key education leaders from the House and Senate met to begin discussions on a House-Senate conference committee. In a release issued after the meeting, all parties expressed confidence that they could bridge differences between the two bills and agree on a single bill that is acceptable to the House, Senate, and the White House, which has raised concerns with both bills.
“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,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), who will likely chair the House-Senate committee. “Those are the kind of education reforms the American people expect and we must deliver. I look forward to continuing this important effort and putting in place new policies that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”
In addition to Kline, the meeting included Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and top Democrats from the two committees, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA).
Alexander noted that the underlying premise for both 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.”
Alexander is focused on providing states and school districts with great flexibility on when, where, and how to intervene. Democrats, including Scott, however, would prefer providing flexibility about types of intervention while requiring action when it comes to intervening in low-performing schools and supporting students from low-income families, students of color, and other traditionally underserved students.
“The right to educational opportunity knows no state boundaries, and federal law must protect this right for all students regardless of race, income, disability, or language status,” Scott said. “I am confident that working together, we will produce a comprehensive reauthorization that fulfills the ESEA’s original civil rights legacy. I stand committed to producing a bipartisan bill that eliminates resource inequities and effectively addresses achievement gaps.”