Speaking at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) annual legislative conference on March 24, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said he hoped that the U.S. House of Representatives would vote on legislation to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) when Congress returns from its two-week recess on April 13.
The bill, known as the Student Success Act, was expected to pass the House on February 27, but it was pulled from consideration after conservative members began to waver in their support.
As reported by Education Week, Kline thought the bill would “sail through” on February 27 but was caught off guard by “a little blog from somebody who had a lot of misinformation.” Most notably, the blog incorrectly said that the Student Success Act would force states to keep the Common Core State Standards. Instead the bill “[prevents] the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, as well as reining in the secretary’s regulatory authority,” according to a fact sheet from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“The entire leadership team was diverted from a really excellent piece of legislation,” Kline said. “We simply stopped where we were in considering the [bill]. All the debate was complete. So now it’s sitting there.”
Kline told the Washington Post in an interview after his speech that he is still a “handful” of votes short to pass the bill. In addition to the blogger, the bill faces opposition from the Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation, two conservative organizations that want a complete retreat from a federal role in education and do not think the bill goes far enough toward that goal. Kline cannot afford to lose very many Republican votes because no Democrats are expected to support the Student Success Act.
“No bill is better than a bad bill,” Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), top Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, told the audience at CCSSO, as reported by the Washington Post. Scott previously charged that the Student Success Act “abandons the fundamental principles of equity and accountability in our education system” and “would take American public education back decades.”
In the U.S. Senate, Republican and Democratic staff are continuing bipartisan negotiations and still expect to mark up a bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during the week of April 13th.