On Thursday, July 16, the Senate approved a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secretary Education Act, S 1177 (ESEA/No Child Left behind Act) by a vote of 81 to 17 sending it on to the next phase of the process and maybe the most difficult phase. The House passed their education bill, HR 5, and approved it by a narrow Republican majority of 218 to 213. What is next is a conference committee which will have to negotiate a final conference agreement that will have to patch together two vastly different bills in a way that can garner the President’s signature. The Senate would appear to go into the conference negotiation with a stronger hand since the vote in support was bipartisan with only 4 Democrats voting no or not voting. At the same time the House had the support of only Republicans members with some opposing it as not being conservative enough. The President has made clear he would veto the House bill but the Administration has also been critical of the Senate bill. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had positive comments on the Senate bill but called for more rigor on states in regard to how they deal with failing schools. Ultimately it will have to be a three way negotiation between the Administration and two houses with the Senate providing some sway for congressional Democrats.

Senator Robert Casey’s (D-PA) amendment, expanding universal pre-kindergarten by providing Preschool Development Grants with $30 billion in funding paid for by closing a corporate tax breaks and covering a five year period failed by a vote of 45 to 52

Senator Al Franken’s amendment to address bullying in school of LGBTQ students also failed but he praised other bipartisan provisions in the final bill including provisions on foster care. As he stated in a press release,

[the bill] “… improves the educational stability of students in foster care by improving collaboration between child welfare agencies and state and local educational agencies. It allows children to remain in their school of origin if it is in their best interest, and makes sure that funding for school transportation is available for those children. A point of contact for education of foster children is appointed in the local educational agency when there is also a point of contact in the corresponding child welfare agency.”  

The education provision was also introduced as the Franken-Grassley Educational Stability of Foster Youth Act.

It is quite possible that a final education bill and conference agreement could take until next year to complete.