Senate Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill – Now On to Conference
On July 16, the U.S. Senate passed S. 117, the Every Child Achieves Act, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill passed by a vote of 81-17, with three Democrats and 14 Republicans voting against the measure.
While 178 amendments were filed, including Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) GREAT Act, Senator Bennet did not offer the GREAT Act amendment to be considered by the full Senate. In total, 66 amendments passed and will be incorporated into the final version of the Senate bill.
The U.S. House completed its ESEA reauthorization work the previous week, but neither chamber has released its final bill yet with all amendments incorporated. Moving forward, both the House and the Senate will produce the final versions of their bills and move to conference—the formal process by which the differences between the bills are reconciled.
Conference is expected to be lengthy, as these two bills are rather dissimilar. Even during the last reauthorization of ESEA, when the two bills were very similar to each other, conference took about 4 months. Nonetheless, both the House and Senate committees overseeing education have full agendas moving forward, including the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which could motivate them to accelerate the conference process on ESEA.
The completion of conference creates the Conference Report, the agreed upon reconciliation of the House and Senate bills—which both bodies will need to pass to send the agreement to the president for his signature.
The Executive Branch issued a Statement of Administration Policy on the House’s bill, H.R. 5, that included a veto threat. The administration hinted at a veto for the Senate bill as well if it did not augment accountability and equitable distribution of resources, among other issues. Although the Senate bill failed to meet this bar, Secretary Arne Duncan released a statement congratulating the Senate on its work and expressing hope that the aforementioned issues could be resolved in conference.
AACTE will continue to engage with both the House and Senate as conference begins, which is currently rumored to be after the August congressional recess.
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