Federal

House GOP Tosses ESEA-Reauthorization Bill Into Ring

By Erik W. Robelen — March 28, 2001 4 min read

Republicans on the House education committee last week introduced their version of legislation to enact President Bush’s precollegiate agenda. Their bill embraces Mr. Bush’s plans for more testing and more flexibility, and for providing educational vouchers to students in persistently failing schools.

At the same time, in a few areas, the bill diverges from the president’s approach, such as his proposal that states use the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a check on state testing programs. The bill would allow the use of other nationally recognized tests as well.

The proposed legislation comes as committee Republicans continue to negotiate with their Democratic counterparts in an effort to find common ground in reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the flagship federal law in K-12 education. With a narrow Republican margin in the House and an evenly divided Senate, any final bill will require bipartisan support, analysts here say. The ESEA reauthorization is overdue, after Congress failed to complete work on it last year.

Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the GOP members’ bill seeks to focus greater attention on closing the achievement gap between students of different racial and economic groups, and would hand states and schools more flexibility in spending federal aid while demanding more accountability for improving student performance. It would require annual testing in grades 3-8 to measure that performance.

If a failing school did not turn around after three years, a portion of the school’s federal Title I aid, coupled with some state money, could be used to help pay the costs of attending another school, whether public or private, or to pay for tutoring. The creation of such vouchers is the most debated of Mr. Bush’s ideas.

“Without a strong safety valve at the end of this process, we’re really not serious about making sure no child in America is left behind,” Mr. Boehner said in making the argument for such a program during a March 22 press conference.

Testing Changes

Rep. George Miller of California, the education committee’s ranking Democrat, said “there is much to like, and much to dislike” in the GOP bill. Vouchers, for instance, are a political nonstarter, he suggested. “However, despite our differences on some key issues, I remain optimistic that ... we can forge a bipartisan agreement this year,” he said.

Still, he cautioned against changing the president’s plan to require states to use NAEP, which Mr. Miller favors. The GOP bill would allow states to use a benchmark other than NAEP, such as the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition, or the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, if they wish.

“I’m not sure who Bush has a bigger problem with, Democrats or his own party,” said Andrew J. Rotherham, the director of education policy at the Progressive Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council. “They’re slowly ripping the guts out [of the president’s testing plan] because they don’t like it.”

But Sandy Kress, Mr. Bush’s education adviser, said that while the White House had concerns on the NAEP issue and in a few other areas, overall he was pleased with the House GOP legislation.

“This is an excellent bill,” he said. “We see so many ... reflections of the president’s policy here.” He added: “Clearly, there are places where we would want to work further with [Mr. Boehner] and his committee.”

Just days after he took office, President Bush unveiled his education plan, a 28-page blueprint for reshaping the federal role in schools. But he has left it up to Congress to take the lead in drafting legislation to enact his proposals. (“Democrats, GOP Agree in Principle on Federal Role,” Jan. 31, 2001.)

The Senate, meanwhile, is a step ahead in the process. Its Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee earlier this month unanimously approved its version of the ESEA. That bill also reflected many aspects of the president’s agenda, such as annual testing, his reading initiative, and consolidation of programs, though it excluded a few of the most controversial items, including vouchers.

Flexibility Measures

The new bill, HR 1, contains the president’s proposals for reading, and math and science instruction. It also echoes his call for penalties for states that failed to close the achievement gap and bonus awards for states that did.

The measure also takes a stab at making federal aid more flexible, a priority for Mr. Bush. HR 1, like the Senate bill, would consolidate most technology programs into a single fund and combine the class-size-reduction and Eisenhower professional-development programs into a broader teacher-quality initiative.

But HR 1 would also combine federal safe schools and after-school programs into a single, flexible fund. The Senate bill would keep those separate, as the White House would like.

Furthermore, HR 1 includes a version of the president’s proposal to let states or districts convert most of their ESEA funds into block grants in exchange for a five-year performance agreement with the Education Department. Most Democrats oppose the idea.

And the GOP bill contains a plan for “transferability,” which would allow either a school district or a state to shift a portion of its ESEA funds from one program area to another.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as House GOP Tosses ESEA-Reauthorization Bill Into Ring

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Principal
Meredith, New Hampshire
Inter-Lakes School District

Read Next

Federal Congress Again Tries to Pass Eagles Act, Focused on School Shootings After Parkland
A group of bipartisan Congressional lawmakers is once again trying to get a law passed aimed at preventing school violence.
Devoun Cetoute & Carli Teproff
2 min read
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Some Districts Extend Paid Leave Policies as They Hope for Passage of Biden Relief Plan
With federal provisions having expired, some school employees have had to dip into their own banks of leave for COVID-19 purposes.
5 min read
Linda Davila-Macal, a seventh grade reading teacher at BL Garza Middle School in Edinburg, Texas, works from her virtual classroom at her home on Aug. 31, 2020.
A teacher leads a virtual classroom from her home.
Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP
Federal President Biden Is Walking a 'Careful Tightrope' When It Comes to School Reopenings
CDC guidance and confusion over his rhetoric turn up the pressure, and could overshadow progress in schools and nuanced public opinion.
9 min read
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, 2021.
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event in Milwaukee earlier this month.
Evan Vucci/AP
Federal White House Unveils New Money to Aid COVID-19 Testing in Schools, But Says More Is Needed
Federal agencies will use $650 million to expand testing in schools and "underserved communities" such as homeless shelters.
2 min read
Image of a coronavirus test swab.
The White House announced new money to help schools test students and staff for COVID-19, but it said more aid is necessary to scale up those efforts.
E+