U.S. Senate Passes ESEA Reauthorization

By a vote of 95 to 12, the United States Senate agreed to the Conference Report and passed S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which will replace No Child Left Behind, the current iteration of E1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This follows last week’s 359 to 64 vote in the United State House of Representatives approving the same measure.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill.

In speaking about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) before the Senate vote today, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair, Senator Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) specifically mentioned charter schools in his remarks.

“I was glad to see us make more progress on charter schools. Today, five per cent of our children in public schools go to public charter schools. That’s a lot of kids—five to six million children—schools where teachers have more freedom and parents have more choices.”

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) voted in favor of the measure and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was absent and did not vote. Also on the campaign trail and absent from voting today were Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Among other things, the Every Student Succeeds Act:

ELIMINATES

  • Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets;
  • The 20% set-aside of Title I fund for SES and Choice Transportation;
  • The federal definition of “highly qualified teacher”;
  • The budgetary authorization levels (sequestration) imposed a few years ago; and
  • Many small discretionary grant programs of the U.S. Department of Education.

DOES NOT CHANGE

  • The Title I formula or Maintenance of Efforts provisions (only minor changes made);
  • The 40% poverty threshold for Title I Schoolwide Programs; and
  • Retains 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Magnet Schools Assistance, Charter Schools, Promise Neighborhoods, Project SERVE; and Ready-to-Learn Television and other some other grant programs.

INCLUDES

  • The annual testing requirement for Reading and Math in grades 3-8 and once in high school, and grade-span testing in Science;
  • Subgroup reporting and 95% testing requirement (States allowing opt-outs must still meet this requirement without excluding these students);
  • States must develop differentiated accountability systems;
  • State accountability systems must identify schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement among the 5% lowest-performing Title I schools in the state;
  • States must set standardized statewide entrance and exit procedures for English Language Learners in the Title III Program;
  • Creates a new Title IV Block Grant from consolidated grant programs;
  • Authorizes a new preschool development program to be administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services;
  • States are authorized to set up teacher-preparation "academies,” using Title II funding, both inside or outside of higher education, which could operate apart from states' usual rules and regulations for teacher preparation; and
  • Restricts the Secretary of Education from imposing additional requirements on states concerning local academic standards, assessments, reporting and accountability.