Senate Passes Education Bill

In a show of overwhelming bipartisan support Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to pass sweeping changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The vote was 81-17 and came after a week of amendments, negotiations and debate.

Last week, the House passed its own version and there are stark differences between the two. However, leaders from both chambers appear to be very confident they will come to terms during the conference process and will design a bill President Obama will sign.

The Senate and the House differ on the role of the federal government in education but both versions move some power back to states. This from the New York Times:

While both bills retain the annual reading and math tests required under current law, states would be given latitude to decide how those assessment tests are used to measure school and teacher performance.

The Senate version would require states to continue to use the tests as a significant accountability factor; the House measure does not. Both versions would prohibit the federal government from requiring any specific set of academic standards, like the Common Core provisions deplored by many conservatives who see them as powerful evidence of federal intrusion.

A central point of contention, sure to stoke negotiations between the House and Senate this fall, involves a provision in the House bill that would permit low-income students to transfer federal dollars between districts.

An attempt to add that to the Senate bill failed, and the Obama administration strongly opposes such a provision for fear it might drain needed funds from districts in need.

Members from the Senate and House will meet to produce a final bill. Once voted on by both chambers, the bill will be sent to President Obama’s desk. This will likely occur in the fallbut we are encouraging legislators to finish the job. (Read more on our Advocacy Dashboard)

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