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House Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill

Posted by shannonk on Friday, July 19, 2013

Today, after two days of debate, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the new GOP ESEA bill, H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act,” by a partisan vote of 221-207.   The legislation seeks to drastically cut down on the “federal footprint” for education policy, striking down many key provisions of No Child Left Behind and also eliminating several signature education programs introduced by the Obama administration.

Under the new law, states and school districts would gain a tremendous amount of control as to how they hold schools accountable for the progress of students.  Amendments adopted during debate on Thursday included one that eliminates the requirement that states evaluate teachers based on student outcomes; under the amendment these evaluations would now be optional.  The legislation also prevents the Department of Education from adopting the Common Core State Standards, and eliminates Maintenance of Effort (i.e. spending) requirements for states in order to receive federal funding.  Finally, the legislation adjusts Title I funding allocation requirements; effectively allowing states and LEAs to allocate funding to any schools with students below the poverty level regardless of the number or concentration of children in poverty.

This is the first time since 2001 that an entire rewrite of NCLB has reached the floor of either house of Congress.  However, passage in the House is almost certainly as far as the bill will go—the Senate HELP Committee has forwarded a diametrically opposed version of ESEA for consideration by the full body, and the White House has also publicly stated its opposition to the House bill.

Most importantly for music advocates, H.R.5 spells bad news for any federal support of music education.  Ranking Member George Miller introduced a substitute bill that would have done more for arts education.  In his remarks on the floor, Mr. Miller stated, “They fail to provide adequate funding and resources for students and schools. They fail to move beyond the narrow focus of reading and math to ensure students get a well-rounded education.”   The amendment was soundly defeated by a partisan vote of 193-233.

What happens next is in the hands of the Senate.  Chairman Harkin has stated that he hopes his bill will reach the Senate floor by early fall.  NAfME staff will be active with the Chairman’s office (a key supporter of music education) in the days and weeks to come.  Stay tuned!

For more on the recent House action, check out these links: