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ESEA Update: Congress makes progress towards reauthorization

MegaphoneThis week Congress has moved a few steps closer to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by passing a bill in the House and beginning debate on the Senate Floor.

The House bill, H.R. 5, passed by only three votes on Wednesday.  While there are numerous problems with this bill, one amendment passed that provides additional support for equitable access to educational technology, a welcome development.

Things are moving more slowly in the Senate, and debate will likely extend into next week. A large number of amendments have been filed, but it is unclear how many of them will actually reach the floor for a vote. Of the votes taken as of the end of debate on Wednesday, the most significant was the defeat of an amendment proposed by Senator Alexander, chair of the HELP committee, which would have reintroduced Title I Portability into the bill and expanded it to apply to students in private schools. NCTE strongly opposes portability because it directs funds away from the schools where they are needed most to improve equity.

As debate progresses, there are several other amendments that NCTE is actively supporting.  Hundreds of NCTE members responded to our recent action alert to write their Senators asking them to support a bi-partisan amendment that instructs states to track and take action to close disparities in resource equity. Other promising proposed amendments address issues of bullying, prioritize time for teacher collaboration, and add additional language from the LEARN Act that NCTE helped to write into the bill.

If they can negotiate another proposed amendment that changes Title I funding formulas in a way that shifts resources between states, it is likely that the Senate will pass their bill next week. The bigger test will be whether House and Senate leaders can reconcile the two very different bills in a way that can pass both Houses and that the President will sign. It is still a long road ahead, but we are moving forward.