On Wednesday, July 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) by a vote of 218 to 213. The Student Success Act would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB), which is the primary law governing the federal role in K-12 education. ESEA/NCLB has been due for reauthorization since 2007. Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-MN) lauded the chamber’s ability to pass the Student Success Act, stating “I’m pleased the House has advanced responsible reforms that would give the American people what they deserve: a commonsense law that will help every child in every school receive an excellent education.”
Wednesday’s passage of the bill was the second attempt this Congress by the House to pass the Student Success Act, after the bill lacked the number of votes to pass in February and was pulled from the floor. The bill made it back to the floor this week after the House Rules Committee agreed to allow four additional amendments to be offered. National PTA sent a letter to the House of Representatives that outlined the association’s position on certain provisions in the bill and potential amendments. The House considered a total of 14 amendments before final passage — adopting five, rejecting eight and withdrawing one.
During floor debate, an amendment was rejected that could have allowed states to contribute federal dollars to private schools. National PTA has consistently opposed any attempt to divert public funding to private schools. Furthermore, National PTA believes portability of Title I funds to either a public or private school is in direct conflict with the original intent of Title I, which is to provide assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. Unfortunately, the Student Success Act does allow the portability of Title I funds to public schools. Ranking Member of the Education and the Workforce Committee Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) stated that “the most egregious of the bill’s provisions is the so-called Title I portability provision — which changes the funding formula to reduce funding in low-income areas and gives more money to rich areas.”
National PTA is pleased that the Student Success Act maintains two important family engagement provisions — resources in Title I for family engagement at the district level as well as the state-based, competitive family engagement program infrastructure. National PTA is also appreciative that the Student Success Act eliminates a one-size-fits-all accountability system, allows for multiple measures of student achievement in state accountability systems and maintains provisions requiring the disaggregation of assessment data by subgroups.
However, National PTA has concerns with several components of the bill, including the elimination of a measure that seeks to ensure education programs are sufficiently funded from year to year, the lack of adequate parameters for the use of alternate assessments, and the inclusion of Title I public school portability provisions.
National PTA is committed to working with Congress to reauthorize the ESEA/NCLB this year. The Senate is currently debating its reauthorization bill — the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) — and is expected to continue doing so next week. National PTA will continue to advocate for robust family engagement provisions within ESEA/NCLB reauthorization and ensure educational equity for all children and their families. As the process moves forward, the association will keep members updated through blog posts, action alerts and letters sent to Congress.
Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.