House and Senate Move to Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

ESEA bills advanced last week in both the House and Senate. While the bills are substantially very different, both would continue federally mandated tests, but states would have more flexibility on what they do with the results.

The Senate began debating its bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), on July 8. Over 100 amendments were filed and debate is expected to continue for at least another week. The Obama Administration has stated that it cannot support the Senate bill because it lacks key pieces, including accountability measures. The Arc is also concerned about accountability and support requiring schools to take action when students groups (including students with disabilities) fail to achieve state standards for more than 2 consecutive years. See action alert above.

The House passed its bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), on July 8 by a slim vote of 218 – 213. No Democrats supported the bill and 27 Republicans voted against it. The House bill includes a number of divisive provisions, including “portability” which allows federal dollars to follow low-income students from their neighborhood school to other public or private schools of their choice. The Arc opposes the House bill because it does not: 1) Limit the use of Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS) to 1% of all students assessed, by grade and by subject; 2) Ensure that parents are involved in the decision about whether their child will take an AA-AAS; 3) Ensure that students with disabilities, including those taking an AA-AAS, have continued access to the general education curriculum and are not precluded from earning a regular high school diploma; or 4) Trigger interventions for groups of students (including those with disabilities) not meeting the state standards.

House Committee Marks Up ESEA Reauthorization Bill

On February 11, The House Education & the Workforce Committee marked up H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the law that governs general education – where most students with disabilities spend most of their time – in public schools. The Arc opposes H.R. 5 as it would remove accountability mechanisms for students with disabilities. View the archived webcast on the committee website.

House Education Bill Introduced

Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced legislation to replace No Child Left Behind. The bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and makes numerous changes to the law that give states more flexibility in the accountability systems and the alternative assessments. The bill consolidates a number of programs and removes the maintenance of effort provisions that ensure that states and local areas do not cut their funding and continue to receive federal funds. The House Education and Workforce Committee is expected to move quickly on this legislation. Disability advocates oppose this bill and urge the House and Senate to work with the disability community to include provisions to provide meaningful access to rigorous standards for all students and fully include students with disabilities in the education system.