On Friday, July 19 the House of Representatives passed their version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), HR 5, the Student Success Act, by a vote of 221 to 207. No Democrats voted for final passage and twelve Republicans voted in opposition.
HR 5 reflects a set of ideas about federal involvement in elementary and secondary education that has few people in the middle. The key idea behind the Act is that the federal government has too much control over education. The supporters of this bill want state and local officials making decisions on what should be done to improve schools and how it should be done. They did not like, for example that the existing version of ESEA, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required all schools to follow federal accountability rules even if they were not receiving federal funds. This accountability system included a highly prescriptive approach to how schools would be organized and managed if they failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP).
In addition, the sponsors of HR 5 did not like the requirements put on states that to receive federal funds and the process to be relieved of the AYP requirements designed by the Obama Administration in their waiver process.The waiver process allows the secretary of education to suspend the requirements of NCLB in trade for the state agreeing to a set of requirements. The House Republicans believed that the secretary of education overstepped his authority by putting these conditions on the waiver requirements. The waiver requirements included: adoption of college- and career-ready standards, teacher and principal evaluation standards that include use of student achievement data, and other requirements.
Underserved Students and Title I
Those in opposition of HR 5 cited that the measure changed the fundamental nature of the federal role in elementary and secondary education by shifting away from funding programs for children who are not performing academically and who are living in areas with a high concentration of poverty, children whose home language is not English, and students who are disabled. HR 5, for example, removes the requirement for maintenance of effort for Title I and shifts the requirement that federal funding is in addition to state and local funding. Plus, the requirement that funds be targeted to language minority students is eroded.
The LEARN Act
The IRA-supported LEARN Act (Literacy for Every American, Result for the Nation) was included in the Democratic substitute to HR 5. This complete substitute failed on a partisan vote. Literacy was explicitly included as one of the areas that would be funded for state and local educators to use for literacy professional development.
The next step in the process is to wait for the Senate to take up its version of the reauthorization, S. 1094, the Strengthening America’s School Act. The Senate committee-passed bill contains the language of the LEARN Act and provides funding for literacy professional development. The expectation is that this measure will be on the Senate floor as early as late September. Once that process is complete, the two bills will need to go to a House-Senate committee to structure a compromise agreeable to both chambers.
The process still has a long way to go before there is a new ESEA. You can read the secretary of education’s response to the vote on the ED.gov website. Join the conversation about this and other legislative actions on Twitter at @rlongliteracy.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association, email@example.com. Find more legislation and advocacy resources in his Hot Topics blog.