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Democratic 2016 Candidates Like Senate ESEA Bill, GOP Not So Much

By Alyson Klein — July 17, 2015 1 min read
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Hillary Clinton thinks it strikes the right balance between testing and accountability. Sen. Bernie Sanders called it a good start and voted for it.

But GOP lawmakers running for president don’t think the bipartisan Senate bill to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act goes far enough in restoring power to parents and slimming down the federal role in K-12 education.

(Telling, though: None of them appeared to use procedural tactics to stand in the bill’s way. So, either they can’t hate it that much, or they don’t feel the need to tweak Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the bill’s sponsor and a party leader.)

Three of the Republican senators running for president—Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida—voted against the legislation. (That’s a flip for Paul, who supported it in committee.) Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn’t vote.

Here’s Paul on why he voted against the bill on the floor. Notably, he said he makes improvements to current law.

Because I believe that education is the great equalizer, I refuse to accept our one-size-fits-all system—a system that leaves most kids behind. The Washington Machine should not dictate what happens in our local classrooms. The decisions should be left with local municipalities, parents, teachers and administrators. While the Senate education reform bill goes a long way to remove federal mandates, it also continues a large federal intrusion into education, and therefore I oppose it

For his part, Cruz introduced an amendment that would have turned over way more control of testing to states. The amendment failed on a vote of 40 to 58—but not before garnering support from Rubio and Paul.

There may be at least one GOP fan of Congress’ efforts. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wrote this op-ed back in March—before the bipartisan bill was introduced—lauding the efforts of Alexander and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee to rewrite the law. (Bush has yet to weigh in on the Senate ESEA bill. It’s an open question whether he shares the views of the folks who helped his brother pass the No Child Left Behind Act—the civil rights and business community—that bill doesn’t go far enough on accountability.

Why does all this matter? If ESEA doesn’t make it over the finish line under Obama, Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Democratic sponsor of the measure, may well be negotiating with one of these guys (or gal) on their legislation.

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