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House Considers Education Conference Report

On December 2, the House approved, 359-64, the conference report for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Senate passed its version of the legislation on July 16 (see The Source, 7/17/15); the House approved a separate measure, H.R. 5, the Student Success Act on July 8 (see The Source, 7/10/15). The conference report resolves differences between the two bills. The current law, commonly known as No Child Left Behind, (NCLB) (P.L. 107-110) expired in 2007. Since then, Congress has funded the provisions annually through the appropriations process.

The legislation would authorize approximately $62.6 billion in total funding through FY2020 for local education agencies (LEAs) that serve large numbers of disadvantaged children (Title I). Within that amount, the bill would authorize $1.29 billion annually from FY2017-2019 and $1.3 billion in FY2020 for impact aid to LEAs that educate large numbers of children who live on military bases, federal lands, and tribal lands. In addition, the bill would authorize $47.6 million annually to support at-risk children and $85 million annually to support the education of homeless children.

The legislation also would authorize $250 million annually for the Preschool Development Grants program to support states that “propose to improve the coordination, quality, and access for early childhood education.” The grant program would be administered by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

According to the conference summary, S. 1177 would allow states to develop and implement their own academic standards, accountability systems, and assessments. The measure would prohibit the federal government from mandating or incentivizing any specific set of academic standards for states to adopt. States would be able to look beyond test scores to determine student achievement and school quality, using factors, such as “student engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, and school climate and safety.”

Among other provisions, states would be required to improve student learning in the lowest-performing five percent of schools, including schools in which groups of students consistently underperform. In addition, states would be responsible for identifying schools and providing support for struggling schools; the bill prohibits the federal government from making decisions about accountability and school improvement activities.

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