The Senate on Wednesday passed an overhaul of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, sending the measure to President Obama's desk.
Senators approved the conference report worked out by House and Senate negotiators in a 85-12 vote — eight years after the original law expired. The House passed the legislation in an overwhelming vote last week.
Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzKansas Republican sworn in after special election Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan Cruz: Seize money from drug lords to fund border wall MORE (R-Texas), another presidential candidate, missed the vote but made his opposition clear in a statement.
"In many ways, the conference report was worse than the original Senate bill — removing the few good provisions from the House bill that would have allowed some Title I portability for low-income students as well as a parental opt-out from onerous federal accountability standards," he said in a statement ahead of the vote. "The American people expect the Republican majority to do better."
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Rubio defends Trump: 'This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing' Rubio: Shutdown would have 'catastrophic impact' on global affairs MORE (R-Fla.), also missed the vote, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Graham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea Graham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump MORE (R-S.C.) voted "yes." Both are running for president.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGive Trump the silent treatment Macron: Gets a win in France, but now the challenge comes Conway: I have 'no idea' who is leading Democratic Party MORE (I-Vt.), who is challenging party front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem: Pruitt violating anti-campaigning law with GOP fundraiser Michael Flynn’s troubles mount Writer who pushed 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theory says he'll attend WH briefing MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed the vote.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress nears deal on help for miners Shutdown fears spur horse-trading GOP, Trump administration huddle on tax reform MORE (R-Ky.) suggested that passing the legislation after years of failing to agree to a deal is the latest example of how the upper chamber is "working" under a Republican majority.
“Finding a serious replacement for No Child Left Behind eluded Washington for years. Today it will become another bipartisan achievement for our country," he said. "The new Congress and the new Senate have had a habit this year of turning third rails into bipartisan achievements."
Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice MORE (R-Tenn.) aimed to pressure his Republican colleagues to back the legislation, saying earlier Wednesday that voting no "is saying 'I like the national school board.'"
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) suggested that while the legislation is needed, Republicans were to blame for the years of inaction on No Child Left Behind.
"I know that some may think this is amusing but it's not. It's too serious," he said. "When my Republican colleagues take victory laps on legislation they filibustered last Congress, that's not a laughing matter."
Despite the partisan bickering ahead of Wednesday's vote, the rewrite brought together liberal Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Warren on Coulter: 'Let her speak' Balanced regulatory reform the only realistic solution to CFPB divisiveness MORE (Mass.) and stalwart Republicans such as Sen. John CornynJohn CornynOvernight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page Juan Williams: Trump's 100 days wound GOP MORE (Texas).
The legislation will reduce the federal government's oversight in the public school system by transferring more decision-making power back to state and local governments.
While the measure keeps annual reading and math testing requirements for grades three through eight, high school students would only have to undergo the testing once.
The legislation would prevent the federal government from requiring or incentivizing states to adopt any set of education standards such as Common Core, which has drawn strong pushback from Republican lawmakers and governors.
Alexander said that the legislation would help move away from a "national school board" and is the "single biggest step toward local control in 25 years."
The legislation has also gained wide praise from dozens of outside groups. Civil rights advocates, however, have expressed concern that the states being able to opt out of No Child Left Behind could reduce resources for disadvantaged students.
Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, said that the legislation "strikes a balance between accountability for serving all students and closing achievement gaps with flexibility to allow state and local actors to meet local needs."