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Is Congress Beginning to Tackle the Education Legislation Logjam?

By Alyson Klein — March 24, 2014 1 min read

So remember how negotiations over the reauthorization of the wonky, low-key Education Sciences Reform Act fell apart over spending levels?

Well, after a temporary pause, negotiations have restarted and they are bipartisan, sources say. In fact, Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and George Miller, D-Calif., are aiming to get the bill ready for committee consideration soon, sources say. If all the stars align, the House education panel could even mark up ESRA as early as next month, maybe even on the same day it considers another bipartisan bill to bolster charter schools.

Discussion of ESRA initially stalled out late last year when lawmakers had trouble agreeing on “authorization” levels, which aren’t binding, and are essentially Congress’ way of saying how much money it thinks a program should get. Kline and Miller agreed on the policy direction of the new bill, but couldn’t quite come to an accord on authorizations. Now those discussions are easier, thanks in part to a broader budget agreement set by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the budget chairs in each chamber.

ESRA isn’t a completely done deal just yet, but the fact that discussions have restarted and are going well is one more sign that lawmakers are ready to try and tackle the education legislation logjam.

And they seem to be continuing with smaller and less controversial bills, rather than getting stuck on the tough stuff (such as the long-stalled renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known to most folks as No Child Left Behind.)

Other signs: The pending charter bill, and a bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program that sailed through the Senate amid much bipartisan fist-bumping earlier this month. The House education committee is going to hold its first hearing on CCDBG tomorrow.

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