Wednesday, July 17, 2013


By Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report |

Wednesday, July 17, 2013  ::  A key House panel is set today to consider some 76 amendments to a Republican bill reauthorizing the nation’s top education law – activity that might otherwise suggest that Congress is finally serious about updating the 12-year-old legislation.

Possible additions to H.R. 5 – U.S. Rep. John Kline’s reiteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – include provisions for removing any requirement to carry out teacher evaluations, dropping several testing mandates, providing options to better serve students at risk of dropping out, and improving graduation rates for students with disabilities.

H.R. 5, also known as the Student Success Act, would reauthorize No Child Left Behind – the current version of the ESEA that was adopted in 2001 – and is set for possible floor consideration tomorrow.

With partisan gridlock firmly entrenched in the Capitol, few insiders – if any – expect much to come of the GOP efforts as bigger political battles continue to be waged with the Democratically-controlled Senate and the Obama administration over health care, immigration and even farm subsidies.

The bill, written by Minnesota Republican Kline, also chairman of the House education committee – has received only partisan support thus far.

And, there is an alternate reauthorization proposal, submitted earlier this year by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Harkin’s plan maintains requirements for annual student testing in math and reading from grades three through eight and once in high school, and it would continue mandates on states to report test scores by demographic groups.

Drawn from legislation introduced last year, the Kline bill would do away with the federal requirement that students have a “highly qualified teacher” but would require states to administer teacher evaluations. H.R. 5 would also still require testing in grades three through eight and once in high school as well as existing test score reporting.

One amendment to the bill – by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah – would strike from the Student Success Act all requirements to carry out teacher evaluations as a required use of federal funds.

Another, by Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Paul Takano, D-Calif. (a former teacher) would require states to test students just once at some point between grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12 – the same requirement for science testing under current law – rather than the annual testing in grades 3-8 mandated by NCLB. States could choose to exceed the new testing requirements.

Other proposed amendments include:

Several aimed at reducing the federal role in education, including one, by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, that would allow states to reject federal grant money for education; those dollars would then be used to reduce the national debt. Another, by Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., would require the secretary of education to cut the U.S. Department of Education’s workforce by 5 percent. A third proposal, by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., would allow states to largely opt out of the testing and accountability requirements in the measure, proposing their own plans instead.

Another proposal by Broun to eliminate a requirement that school documents be printed in languages other than English so that parents who speak other languages can understand them.

A number of proposals – all sponsored by Democrats – to keep maintenance of effort language requiring school districts to spend at previous-year levels in order to receive federal funds.

Several attempts at requiring states to design accountability systems that set achievement goals for particular subgroups of students such as English-language learners or students with disabilities. One such proposal, by Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., would require the secretary of education to reject any accountability plans that fail to improve academic achievement or graduation rates for students with disabilities.

A proposal by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., allowing Title I funds to follow students to the public school of their choice.

Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., filed an amendment making it clear that nothing in the bill is meant to water down collective bargaining, including language requiring states and districts to develop educator evaluation systems based on student outcomes.

The House Committee on Rules, which meets at 3 p.m. EST today, will decide which of the amendments members get to vote on. H.R. 5 also appropriates nearly $22.8 billion in education funding for each fiscal year 2014 through 2019.

To see review all of the amendments or to read the text of H.R. 5, visit

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