House passes No Child Left Behind rewrite

Eight years after the No Child Left Behind Act expired, the House passed compromise legislation to reduce the federal government’s role in the public education system.

Wednesday’s 359-64 vote follows years of stalled efforts to replace the Bush-era No Child Left Behind.

The Senate is slated to consider the bill next week and send it to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

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The measure keeps in place the law’s trademark annual reading and math testing requirements for students in grades three through eight. High school students would only have to undergo the testing once. Science tests would also be given three times between grades three and 12.

However, the legislation would prevent the federal government from requiring or incentivizing states to adopt any set of education standards like Common Core.

“For more than a decade, Washington has been micromanaging our classrooms,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

“No Child Left Behind was based on good intentions. But it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington knows what students need to succeed in school,” added Kline, who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

The Department of Education would only be authorized to verify that states’ school accountability plans adhere to the law. States would be required to improve the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools, as well as schools where any group of students consistently underperform. 

Under pressure from governors and school districts, the Obama administration since 2011 has been issuing waivers from mandates in the original law like requiring all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The compromise measure would end the waivers given to more than 40 states.

“This has created not only a great amount of uncertainty for students, parents, educators and communities, but has also resulted in uneven protections for underserved students and a lack of transparency for our communities,” Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Democrats divided on surprise medical bill fix NYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program MORE (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said of the waivers.

The final bicameral, bipartisan product is less conservative than the version the House originally passed in July on a narrow vote that nearly derailed on the floor. The razor-thin passage came months after House GOP leaders had to pull the bill from the floor schedule due to the lack of support from conservatives.

All of the 64 votes on Wednesday against the final negotiated measure were from Republicans.

The bill originally passed by the House included an amendment authored by Freedom Caucus member Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) to allow parents to exempt their children from testing requirements. 

But civil rights groups had expressed concern that allowing states to opt out of No Child Left Behind would deprive disadvantaged student populations of resources. They had also objected to a GOP provision in the House version allowing funds for low-income localities to “follow” students that transfer to other schools, regardless of whether the new school needs the money. But that proposal was not included in the ultimate bill reconciling the House and Senate versions.

Civil rights organizations offered muted support for the final compromise, titled the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“We believe the Every Student Succeeds Act is an improvement over the waivers and is a chance to move beyond the No Child Left Behind Act for the millions of students of color, students with disabilities, and English learner students we represent. However, the compromise that has resulted in the Every Student Succeeds Act is not the bill that we would have written,” 36 civil rights and education groups said in a statement.