Led by Minnesota congressman John Kline, House Republicans passed an education bill that would strip control of K-12 education from the Obama administration and roll back the landmark No Child Left Behind Act passed during the George W. Bush administration.
Kline’s bill, the Student Success Act, eliminates dozens of school improvement programs and grants states the power to develop their own standards, explicitly banning Education Secretary Arne Duncan from encouraging to states to adopt reforms backed by the Obama administration.
The House approved the legislation 221-207 with no Democratic support.
“The House of Representatives will not stand by and allow the Education Department to micromanage our classrooms and defend the failed status quo,” said Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Since No Child Left Behind expired in 2007, Congress has failed to renew the legislation. And this week’s debate and vote marked the first time since the law was passed that an education bill has made it to the floor of Congress.
But its prospects beyond Friday’s vote remain dim.
A veto threat from President Obama looms and the Democratic-led Senate is hammering away at its own No Child Left Behind rewrite that differs from the House version. It also scraps some No Child Left Behind Act mandates, but would still give Duncan final say over state improvement plans.
House Democrats labeled the bill the “Letting Students Down Act,” arguing that it would fail to hold schools accountable, especially those that serve students with disabilities and those from low-income families. Democrats also blasted the bill for locking in $1.2 billion in sequestration budget cuts over the next six years.
The bill bonded the interests of business and labor, bringing together teachers’ unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with civil rights groups to denounce the legislation.
Chamber leaders threatened that they will consider votes for the bill as a vote against business interests. Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president for government affairs, noted that House members' votes on the bill may be counted in the chamber's annual ratings scorecard.
Republican members often tout their ratings from the Chamber, the nation’s largest and most influential lobbying group.