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Education

Where Does the NCLB Rewrite Stand in the House?

By Alyson Klein — July 17, 2013 3 min read

The big question of the day: Is a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act headed to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week? There’s been a lot of talk about conservative opposition, but, so far, it appears that the initial whip count looks pretty decent for the bill’s chances, advocates say. (A “whip count” is the vote count, for you folks who aren’t regular C-SPAN viewers, or fans of fictional whip Rep. Frank Underwood, D-Netflix’s House of Cards.)

No official word from GOP leaders, but right now, the bill is likely headed to the floor on Thursday, advocates say. Of course, nothing is ever a sure thing on Capitol Hill, so don’t bet the bank (or your Starbucks money) on House action this week, or not just yet. Something to look for: President Barack Obama is almost certain to issue a veto threat on the measure, possibly sometime today. UPDATE: It’s official: The administration has issued a veto threat. The White House argues the bill would not encourage states to adopt college-and-career ready standards, backs away from accountability for disadvantaged kids, would lock in sequester cuts, and would not reauthorize key Obama priorities, such as Race to the Top. Read his veto message below.

The stakes are still really high for GOP leadership, which has had some noticeable stumbles lately, including the initial vote on the Farm bill. U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Majority Leader has been very visible on this issue, and Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House, has a very long record on K-12, as a primary author of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

And the stakes are also high for ESEA reauthorization itself. Most advocates believe that if this bill fails because of conservative opposition no one will touch the main K-12 education law for years. That could mean waivers until probably the end of the Obama administration, or longer.

As the Rules committee prepares to consider later today some 74 amendments, a few provisions are getting particular buzz. One is bipartisan amendment introduced by Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., (a former teacher). It would scrap the testing requirement in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school under the current No Child Left Behind Act (and in the bill). Instead, states would just have to test students once at some point between grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. (That’s the same as for science under current law.) States could exceed the new testing requirements, if they wanted to.

The amendment has some major champions, including the National Education Association. But it also has some big detractors, including the Education Trust, the Center on American Progress, Teach Plus, the New Teacher Project and the New Schools Venture Fund. The groups wrote a letter opposing the provision as being a big step backwards on accountability for disadvantaged students. You can read it here. Even if the amendment ultimately doesn’t get considered, the bipartisan opposition to testing is notable. UPATE: The Democratic sponsor of the amendment withdrew his support. That could make it a much tougher sell, should it go to the floor.

Also getting big buzz: an amendment from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to strike the portion of the bill that makes teacher evaluation through student outcomes a requirement. (Bishop is a former teacher himself.) The teacher-evaluation language is a personal policy priority of Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the ESEA bill’s main author. But Bishop’s amendment would make the bill much more similar to a proposal already introduced by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top GOP lawmaker on the Senate education committee. Alexander, who pushed for big changes to teacher evaluation as governor, doesn’t think it’s the federal role to prescribe evaluations. More on this division here.

Another amendment to watch: a “sense of Congress” resolution introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican of Missouri,that chides the U.S. Department of Education for using Race to the Top to coerce states into adopting the Common Core State Standards. Such a resolution would have virtually no real weight in terms of law, but it still would send a message if passed. And it’s pretty much the only anti-common core amendment in the bunch.

Also notable: The American Association of School Administrators, one of two major edu-organizations to support the bill, is opposed to Cantor’s amendment to have Title I dollars follow children to the school of their choice, even though it’s only for public schools, not private schools. (The National School Boards Association has also endorsed the bill.)

Obama’s veto threat:

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