Senate approves No Child Left Behind rewrite, sending legislation to White House
© Getty Images

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. 

The White House said that Obama will sign the legislation Thursday morning. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
All 12 votes against the bill came from Republicans, who argued the legislation didn't go far enough. The "no" votes included Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (Ky.), a presidential candidate.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week 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 Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE (R-Fla.), also missed the vote, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) voted "yes." Both are running for president.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states After Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward MORE (I-Vt.), who is challenging party front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed the vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Trump health chief backs CDC research on gun violence | GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix | Groups sue over cuts to teen pregnancy program GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix 30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help 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 Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake 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 Ann WarrenTrump's SEC may negate investors' ability to fight securities fraud Schatz's ignorance of our Anglo-American legal heritage illustrates problem with government Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee MORE (Mass.) and stalwart Republicans such as Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ 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."