More Details on U.S. Senate HELP Committee’s ESEA Reauthorization Bill

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The U.S. Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor and Pen­sions (HELP) met last week to markup a bipar­ti­san bill to reau­tho­rize the Ele­men­tary and Sec­ondary Edu­ca­tion Act (ESEA) or No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The com­mit­tee con­sid­ered over 50 amend­ments to The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which is co-authored by Chair­man Lamar Alexan­der (R‑TN) and Rank­ing Mem­ber Pat­ty Mur­ray (D‑WA), and ulti­mate­ly passed the mea­sure unan­i­mous­ly, 22–0.

The markup was con­duct­ed over a three day peri­od that was close­ly man­aged by both authors in order to pre­vent con­tro­ver­sial amend­ments from jeop­ar­diz­ing the bill’s bipar­ti­san path for­ward. In the end, of the 57 amend­ments con­sid­ered, 29 were adopt­ed. Con­tro­ver­sial amend­ments includ­ing issues such as vouch­ers and teacher eval­u­a­tion require­ments were kept off of the bill, but those debates are still expect­ed to be had when the bill hits the full sen­ate. Lead­ers have said that will be lat­er this year, but no debate has been sched­uled yet.

Below is a list­ing of the amend­ments passed dur­ing the com­mit­tee markup as well as a few note­wor­thy amend­ments either with­drawn or defeat­ed dur­ing committee.

Amend­ments adopted:

  • Amend­ment by Bald­win: cre­ates grants for enhanced assess­ment instru­ments and audits of state and local assess­ment systems.
  • Amend­ment by Bald­win: requires the report­ing of stu­dents with career and tech­ni­cal pro­fi­cien­cy on report cards.
  • Amend­ment by Bald­win: pro­vides grants to ini­ti­ate, expand, and improve phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion programs.
  • Amend­ment by Bald­win: autho­rizes grants to encour­age the use of tech­nol­o­gy to improve col­lege and career readiness.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: reduces the bur­den on dis­tricts with regard to report­ing data for annu­al report cards.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: per­tains to finan­cial lit­er­a­cy and fed­er­al finan­cial aid aware­ness efforts.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: allows funds to be used for the cre­ation of teacher and prin­ci­pal prepa­ra­tion academies.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: increas­es engage­ment from the U.S. Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion to assist rur­al school dis­tricts with com­pet­i­tive grants.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: cre­ates grants for edu­ca­tion inno­va­tion and research aimed at high-needs students.
  • Amend­ment by Ben­net: estab­lish­es a weight­ed stu­dent fund­ing flex­i­bil­i­ty pilot program.
  • Amend­ment by Burr: alters the fund­ing for­mu­la for teach­ers and lead­ers to be based 80 per­cent on pover­ty and 20 per­cent on population.
  • Amend­ment by Burr: adds a hold-harm­less pro­vi­sion for Title II for­mu­la fund­ing for teach­ers and lead­ers by man­dat­ing a 14.29 per­cent reduc­tion each year over sev­en years. This amend­ment bare­ly passed: 11–10.
  • Amend­ment by Casey: autho­rizes fund­ing for Ready-To-Learn Television.
  • Amend­ment by Casey: rein­serts hold-harm­less lan­guage in Title II, Part A. This amend­ment was lat­er amend­ed by Burr’s nar­row­ly passed hold-harm­less amend­ment men­tioned above.
  • Amend­ment by Casey: cre­ates a grant pro­gram for dis­tricts that wish to reduce exclu­sion­ary dis­ci­pline practices.
  • Amend­ment by Collins: cre­ates an Inno­v­a­tive Assess­ment and Account­abil­i­ty Pilot.
  • Amend­ment by Franken: rein­states the Ele­men­tary and Sec­ondary School Coun­sel­ing program.
  • Amend­ment by Franken: allows com­put­er-adapt­ed test­ing and adds oth­er assess­ment criteria.
  • Amend­ment by Franken: sup­ports accel­er­at­ed learn­ing programs.
  • Amend­ment by Franken: adds lan­guage to improve STEM instruc­tion and achievement.
  • Amend­ment by Franken: cre­ates a grant pro­gram for schools that uti­lize Native Amer­i­can lan­guages for instruc­tion with their students.
  • Amend­ment by Isak­son: allows par­ents to opt out of testing.
  • Amend­ment by Mikul­s­ki: adds the Jav­its Gifted/Talented Stu­dents Edu­ca­tion Act of 2015.
  • Amend­ment by Murkows­ki: rein­states 21st Cen­tu­ry Com­mu­ni­ty Learn­ing Centers.
  • Amend­ment by Mur­phy: ensures that states work to reduce phys­i­cal and men­tal abuse relat­ed to seclusion/restraint.
  • Amend­ment by Mur­ray: requires report­ing of data on mil­i­tary-con­nect­ed students.
  • Amend­ment by Mur­ray:  autho­rizes Project SERV allow­ing for ser­vices to schools in the after­math of vio­lent events.
  • Amend­ment by Mur­ray:  autho­rizes ear­ly learn­ing align­ment and improve­ment grants.
  • Amend­ment by White­house: estab­lish­es a pro­gram for lit­er­a­cy and arts education.

Addi­tion­al amend­ments of note:

  • Amend­ment by Scott: would have giv­en states the option to let Title I funds fol­low a stu­dent to any school, includ­ing pri­vate schools. Scott ulti­mate­ly with­drew his porta­bil­i­ty amend­ment because of the con­tro­ver­sial nature, but this is like­ly to be an amend­ment debat­ed on the sen­ate floor. Chair­man Alexan­der said he looked for­ward to vot­ing for such an amend­ment in the full senate.
  • Amend­ment by War­ren: would have required states to describe how meth­ods used for eval­u­a­tion were rea­son­able and reli­able, if a state chose to imple­ment an eval­u­a­tion sys­tem. Chair­man Alexan­der said it would unnec­es­sar­i­ly put fed­er­al require­ments on state eval­u­a­tion sys­tems. The amend­ment failed on a 10–12 roll call vote.
  • Amend­ments by Alexan­der and Casey: would have dealt with bul­ly­ing. The two offered duel­ing amend­ments regard­ing bul­ly­ing and under­went exten­sive debate. Both even­tu­al­ly with­drew their amend­ments with the expec­ta­tion to debate the issue again on the sen­ate floor.

Oth­er amend­ment top­ics not adopt­ed in com­mit­tee markup but that could be addressed on the sen­ate floor include Title I com­pa­ra­bil­i­ty (a means of equal­iz­ing fund­ing between schools with dif­fer­ing lev­els of need), inter­ven­tions for strug­gling schools, and addi­tion­al tar­get­ed sup­port for cer­tain stu­dent pop­u­la­tions. Stay tuned for updates once a floor debate is scheduled.