Senate passes No Child Left Behind replacement

(UPDATED, 4:23 p.m., with Risch statement.)

The final version of the bill to replace the federal No Child Left Behind education law is headed to President Obama’s desk.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed the education overhaul, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Idaho’s two Republican senators opposed the bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. After the 85-12 vote, Republican and Democratic lawmakers hailed the end of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.

Jim Risch
Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch voted against the rewrite Wednesday.

Said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: “The huge bipartisan vote in both the Senate and the House reverses the trend toward a national school board and makes clear that, in the future, the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability will be through states, communities and classrooms and not Washington, D.C.”

Said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat: “This legislation includes strong federal guardrails to ensure all students have access to a quality education, reduces reliance on high-stakes testing, makes strong investments to improve and expand access to preschool for our youngest learners, and so much more.”

Mike Crapo
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, decried federal testing mandates that remain in place.

The new bill would replace Adequate Yearly Progress, the much-maligned accountability yardstick from No Child Left Behind, and allow states to write their own accountability measures.

States would still be required to test third- through eighth-graders and administer a standardized test in high school. In Idaho, that now takes the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium online exam, aligned to Idaho Core Standards.

In a bow to the ongoing national controversy over Common Core, the bill says states alone have the authority to establish academic standards.

In a statement after Wednesday’s vote, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo decried the continued federal testing mandates.

“(This bill) did not do enough to change the federal government’s heavy-handed involvement and decision-making regarding our local schools,” Crapo said. “Significantly fewer mandates from the federal Department of Education must be included in any reform legislation before I can support it.”

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch also said the bill failed to provide states sovereignty over education. “This bill is substantially better than those before it, and I applaud all that it does to dismantle Common Core, but it does not go far enough in giving states the authority needed to address their own education policy needs.”

In July, Risch and Crapo voted against an earlier version of the bill.

Last week, Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador split their vote on ESSA, with Simpson voting yes and Labrador voting no. The House passed the bill, 359-64.