The U.S. Senate approved the conference legislation known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a measure that – once signed into law by President Obama – will replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal law and will serve as the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
The measure passed by a vote of 85-12. The 12 senators who voted against it are: Sens. Blunt (R-MO), Crapo (R-ID), Daines (R-MT), Flake (R-AZ), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Sasse (R-NE), Scott (R-SC), Shelby (R-AL), and Vitter (R-LA).
Three senators did not vote on the bill: Sens. Cruz (R-TX), Rubio (R-FL), and Sanders (I-VT). Cruz voted against advancing the legislation on Tuesday. Both Rubio and Sanders did not vote on cloture either.
“While the Every Student Succeeds Act takes important steps in restoring some control over education decisions back to the states, it does not go far enough,” Rubio said in a statement to Breitbart News. “Unfortunately, the bill does not grant states autonomy in all education decision-making, expands the federal government’s role in Pre-K, and fails to include important measures that broaden school choice. Due to these shortcomings, I am unable to lend my support to this bill.”
Chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education Sen. Lamar Alexander described the bill as a “Christmas present” to America’s schoolchildren and teachers, adding that the reason why he has such great praise for the bill is because it’s “bipartisan.”
Alexander and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray spent much of their floor time praising each other for their achievement.
Establishment Washington leaders hailed the bill as a model for how the Senate should work – with compromise and bipartisanship.
“It’s an extraordinary accomplishment,” said South Dakota Democrat and former Senate majority leader and founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center Tom Daschle, according to the Washington Post in July.
Alexander said he took Murray’s advice to compromise on the bill.
“And it turned out to be good advice,” he said later in an interview. “I gave up something, but I gained more — not only a working relationship with her but a lot of support from the Democratic members of the committee.”
He names the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and other pro-Common Core groups as supporters of the bill.
In a statement on his website, Cruz said:
The Every Student Succeeds Act unfortunately continues to propagate the large and ever-growing role of the federal government in our education system—the same federal government that sold us failed top-down standards like Common Core. We should be empowering parents and local school districts instead of perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our nation’s children. 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. The American people expect the Republican majority to do better. And our children deserve better, which is why I cannot support this bill.