Last week, not too far off from the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved HR 5. The vote followed party lines when it passed by a vote of 21 to 16. There were no hearings on the legislation with Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) arguing that the Committee had conducted enough work and hearings in the past Congress and new hearings were not necessary. The bill is similar to past House Republican bills that would do away with many of the current law mandates and funding requirements.

Kline has indicated that he would like to have the bill voted on by the House by late February or early March. He said that his goal is to have a conference committee with Senate counterparts after the Senate has acted on its bill. Congressman Kline has indicated that if the timing works right the Congress would have a bill on the President’s desk by the end of this year. He also said, at a forum at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that if they did not act by this year that presidential politics will start to have an impact on any future progress in the Congress.

One of the major efforts of the child welfare community is to amend federal education law in a way that mirrors the current child welfare law (Title IV-E) that requires that a child stay in the same school when they are placed into foster care—if it is in the child’s best interest. That law also requires immediate enrollment in a new school if that is the best option for the child. The House bill as passed does not have such a requirement. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) are working to include such language in the Senate bill.