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 PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (Ky.), a presidential candidate.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzViral video shows O’Rourke air-drumming to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ after Cruz debate Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions 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 RubioNikki Haley: New York Times ‘knew the facts’ about curtains and still released story March For Our Lives founder leaves group, says he regrets trying to 'embarrass' Rubio Rubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' MORE (R-Fla.), also missed the vote, while Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Kim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' MORE (R-S.C.) voted "yes." Both are running for president.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.), who is challenging party front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed the vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal 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: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke 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 ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination 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 WarrenDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her More Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? MORE (Mass.) and stalwart Republicans such as Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford 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."