The House overwhelmingly passed the conference legislation known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which could replace the federal No Child Left Behind law. The bill passed by a vote of 359-64, with only Republicans – many of them members of the House Freedom Caucus – voting against it.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 3, 2015
The bill is set to become the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) enacted under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
During speeches on the House floor, members of the Republican-led conference committee congratulated each other and spoke at length of the “bipartisanship” that led to the final draft of this bill. It’s 1,061 pages long and had only been released on Monday, after months of reported backroom deals. Lawmakers and the public had only two days to read the massive measure prior to the vote.
During floor speeches, Republican lawmakers claimed the bill “reduces the federal role” in education – even though it extends federal oversight of education to formally include pre-school instead of only grades K-12. They also say the measure would stop the federal government from coercing states to implement the Common Core standards – a point that is hotly debated by conservative activists who say the bill actually cements the Common Core further.
At the same time, Democrats asserted the bill would promote equality in education, ensuring that minority students receive the same education opportunities as others through federal accountability.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the floor of the House prior to the vote, endorsing the measure and praising members of the Republican-led conference committee who drafted it. During her speech, she read a list of groups that support the bill. Those she named specifically have been proponents of the Common Core standards.
With these improvements in the ESEA authorization before us it’s no wonder that this agreement is supported by a far-ranging coalition, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Governors Association, the leadership conference of Civil and Human Rights, AFT and NEA – two leading teachers’ unions, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and many more.
We all agree that education is a national security issue – President Eisenhower taught us that. It is also an economic issue, and one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time. With this legislation, we help ensure that access to high quality education is the right of every student. I urge my colleagues in join [sic] in passing this strong bipartisan reauthorization of the historic ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In a press release, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the Republicans who voted against the ESSA, said “the new, longer replacement for No Child Left Behind…continues the massive federal overreach into America’s classrooms and homes, denying kids and their parents, teachers, schools, and states control over their own schools.”
“The legislation does not repeal all too many of the onerous regulations, mandates, and days of testing that America’s moms, dads and teachers detest,” he continued. “After fourteen years of NCLB, and billions of dollars in new spending, there has been no detectable improvement to education in America.”
Huelskamp added the bill would still allow “the heavy hands of Washington politicians and bureaucrats” to “still dictate what my kids and other Kansas children study, how and when they are tested, who passes or fails, and even what they can be served in the lunchroom.”
“By continuing to subject kids, parents, teachers and our local schools to the idea that Washington knows best in education, we are simply failing our kids, our schools and our nation,” he said.