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Congress Passes Education Reform Bill

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By huge margins, both the Senate and the House have passed a bipartisan bill to revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The flagship federal legislation for K-12 schools won Senate approval, 87-10, on Dec. 18. Less than a week before, the House gave its assent on a vote of 381-41.

"I commend members of Congress for acting boldly and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way to help make sure no child in America is left behind," President Bush said in a statement after the Senate vote. He promised to sign the bill early in the new year.

The legislation imposes new requirements on states and school districts to improve student achievement, while also authorizing a substantial increase in federal aid and offering greater flexibility in how that money is spent. In addition, it mandates statewide testing in reading and mathematics each year in grades 3-8 and provides new educational options for students in failing schools.

The final votes came nearly five months after a House-Senate conference committee first met to resolve differences between the two chambers' versions of the legislation to reauthorize the ESEA, which was first enacted in 1965.

"This landmark bipartisan legislation contains far-reaching reforms to give all the nation's students much greater opportunity than ever before to succeed," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "It has been a genuine bipartisan process."

At the same time, Sen. Kennedy said he was disappointed in the final agreement on spending, which fell short of what he and other Democrats had called for.

"I am concerned that … this Congress and this president have failed to support the investments necessary if we are serious about truly leaving no child behind," he said.

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