U.S. House Passes Student Success Act

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Late yesterday afternoon the U.S. House passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, with only Republican support on a close 218 to 213 vote.  Twenty seven Republicans joined with Democrats opposing the bill.  One of those Congressman Justin Amash (R-UT) who said on Facebook, “This was a big step backward for those of us who care about local control.”

Watching on C-SPAN I couldn’t tell what was going on the floor of the House, but it at first appeared to fail.  A five minute vote was called for and at the end of the five minutes, according to C-SPAN’s timer, the bill failed 212 to 213.  The GOP “nay” count went from 27 to 28 and back on three different occasions and votes were added after time expired.

Apparently five minutes doesn’t mean five minutes on the floor of the House?

Some withheld their votes until the end, and apparently there were two or three who changed their votes under pressure from GOP leadership.

The amendment that passed that was likely the lynchpin for conservative support was proposed by Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ).  It said parents have the right to opt-there student out for any reason.

Here is the text of his amendment below:

Page 31, line 3, strike ‘‘(3)(B)(ii)(II)’’ and insert ‘‘(3)(B)(ii)(II), except that States shall allow the parent of a student to opt such student out of the assessments required under this paragraph for any reason and shall not include such students in calculating the participation rate under this clause’”

I have mixed feelings about this amendment.  On one hand it is good clear language that despite the 95% required student participation mandate for schools parents can opt their student out.  On the other hand, it should not have needed to be codified, and I’m concerned if it is repealed it will give the impression to educrats that Congress can dictate this right.

No, parents should have a natural right to opt their child out.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) offered another amendment that also passed that offered clearer language related to state standards.  “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit a State from withdrawing from the Common Core State Standards or any other specific standards,” his amendment read.

It also addressed grants and waivers. “No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts or other cooperative agreements, through waiver granted under section 6401 or through any other authority, take any action against a State that exercises its rights.”

Again, states already had that right, but it makes it clear.  His amendment doesn’t address a change in assessments however.

Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC) offered an amendment using language for the A-PLUS Act that would have essentially block granted Title 1 funding back to the states.  That amendment failed.

Needless to say we still have concerns.

It is unlikely the bill will become law as written.  President Obama already issued a veto threat.  The Senate version of the No Child Left Behind “fix” will look significantly different.  The Senate is expected to pass their version early next week.

Will the two chambers be able to agree on a bill?  I have my doubts.