Leaders of the Congressional committees that deal with education issues met late last week to lay the groundwork on how to proceed with a conference committee to resolve differences in the House- and Senate-passed bills to overhaul the current version of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and House Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) took part in the discussions.
The group agreed to recommend that House Chairman John Kline (R-MN) chair the Conference Committee.
The House passed its version—the Student Success Act—on July 8.
The Senate passed its version—the Every Child Achieves Act—on July 16.
A bill must be agreed to by both chambers in the same form before it can be presented to the President. When there are differences in the bills passed by the two chambers it is common practice to form a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills and develop a bicameral agreement that is then submitted to both houses in identical form.
(A conference committee is a temporary joint committee created to resolve differences between House-passed and Senate-passed versions of a measure; its task is to negotiate a compromise proposal that can be agreed to by both chambers.)
Among the issues on which the conference committee will try to reach a compromise are two provisions in the House bill that are not in the Senate bill: one would allow Title I dollars for low-income children to follow those children to the public school of their choice (known as “portability”); the other would eliminate language in the current NCLB law that allows the federal government to impose sanctions on schools and states in which large percentages of students are opting out of required annual assessments.