The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve a bill that will prevent the Obama administration from imposing policies like Common Core, handing a big win to new House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), crafted after months of work led by Republicans Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, is intended to replace 2002’s No Child Left Behind law, which officially expired in 2007 and is almost universally seen as terribly outdated. The final bill cleared the House by a decisive 359-64 margin. All 64 nay votes were Republican, and seven more Republicans did not vote.
Even though Democrats were more united in supporting the bill, ESSA is a relatively conservative bill that will empower states at the expense of the federal government. For example, the bill prohibits the Department of Education from meddling in the realm of education standards, which the Obama administration did in recent years in order to promote the adoption of Common Core. The department also will no longer be able to unilaterally act to sanction low-performing schools; instead, the decision of when and where to intervene will be largely left to the states.
“Today, we helped turn the page on a flawed law and a failed approach to K-12 education,” Kline said in a statement after the vote. “Parents, teachers, and state and local school leaders support this bill because they know it will restore local control and help get Washington out of our classrooms.”
The Senate will take up the bill next week. It’s expected to pass easily, much as an earlier version did last summer. President Barack Obama looks likely to sign the legislation, despite its Republican leanings, which partly reflects of how dissatisfied Democrats are with the legacy of No Child Left Behind.
Still, as the numerous Republican nay votes show, not every conservative is happy with the final bill. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has been particularly critical, attacking the bill for not doing enough to promote school choice or cut the number of federal programs. Others have faulted Congress for moving too quickly to vote on the bill, as the final vote comes just two days after the 1000-page bill was publicly unveiled.
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