House-Senate Conference Committee Approves ESEA Rewrite (S. 1177) with Amendments

Yesterday (Nov. 19), the House-Senate Conference Committee approved S. 1177 –the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with amendments—by a 39-1 vote.

The full Report/bill language is expected to become public on November 30. The House could vote on the bill December 2 – 3 and the Senate could vote as early as December 7.

Click here to view the ESEA Framework as approved by the conference committee, which includes commentary from the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

According to the NSBA, the most substantive change from the House-and Senate-passed ESEA bills is reflected in enhanced accountability provisions that have bi-partisan support.

Read News Coverage:  New York Times; Washington Post; USA Today; Associated Press

Several amendments were added to the bill with bipartisan support:

Title I Funding:  The House-Senate ESEA Conference Committee adopted an amendment by voice vote that was offered by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) that would authorize the Institute of Education Sciences to study the Title I funding formula and report back to Congress.  This amendment reflects “formula fairness” efforts by Rep. Thompson as well as Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), to reform the Title I funding mechanisms to reflect greater parity (or equitable distribution of funds among eligible students in urban, rural and suburban areas).

“When the money does not follow the intended population, that’s broken,” Sen. Burr stated.  “Title I money no longer follows poor kids where they live.  When a program isn’t accomplishing what it was intended for, it is broken.”

Early Childhood Education Programs:  Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) offered an amendment that was approved by a voice vote to study federal investments in early childhood education that would yield useful information on how to make early education more efficient and effective.  In his remarks about the amendment, Sen. Enzi stated that he and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) worked several years ago to consolidate and improve federal support for early childhood programs, and that more efforts are needed to improve efficiency in this area.

Integrated Curricula: Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) introduced an amendment that would expand the list of allowable activities in Title IV Academic Enrichment Grants (formerly 21st Century Schools) to improve integration of STEM subjects and the arts, such as music and math, to support efforts for a “well-rounded education.”  Conferees approved the amendment by a voice vote.

Testing/Assessments: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) offered an amendment that was approved by a voice vote to streamline testing, “where federal requirements collide with district and state assessments.” The amendment clarifies that states and districts may set a targeted limit on testing and eliminate unnecessary and duplicative assessments.  The measure would limit the overall amount of time students spend taking assessments and allow states and districts the flexibility to address what Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) referred to as “the problem of over-testing.”

Education Technology/Student Data Privacy:  Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) raised an amendment regarding the use of technology to improve education outcomes while protecting student data.  The amendment, which was approved by a voice vote, would amend Title IIA under ESEA on “preparing, training and recruiting high quality teachers and principals” to allow the use of professional development funds for training on the appropriate use of data.

Dropout Prevention:  Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) offered an amendment that was approved by a voice vote to increase dropout prevention efforts and offer greater support for student re-entry programs.  The amendment would allow districts to use existing funds under the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program to address dropout prevention.

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Programs: Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) offered a measure to amend Title III on English Language Acquisition to facilitate opportunities for dual/concurrent enrollment as an allowable use of funds.  The measure would enhance the offering of community college courses to English Language Learners, allowing students to graduate in five years with a high school diploma and advanced credentials.  Rep. Polis stated that his amendment would provide more opportunities for such programs, giving students a “head start” on college completion.  Conferees approved the amendment by a voice vote.