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Education Research Bill Will Have to Wait for 2015

If you were hoping that Congress would add the Education Sciences Reform Act to the list of bills it will pass during this short lame duck session, you're going to be disappointed.

ESRA, a relatively low-key, targeted bill that governs education research programs, will have to wait until the new Congress convenes in January. The legislation already passed the House of Representatives on "suspension" (a congressional process used for non-controversial measures with lots of bipartisan support.)

And it was also approved by the Senate education committee on voice vote, another procedure often used for more limited bills with lots of cross-aisle love.

Advocates had hoped the Senate would finish the job before the end of 2014, by allowing the full chamber to vote on the bill under unanimous consent. That requires the permission of both Republicans and Democrats. And some lawmakers on the GOP side of the aisle had concerns—mostly with the process of moving the bill along quickly, not with the substance of the legislation.

Some Senate Republicans see the lame duck as a moment for dealing with must-pass bills, not smaller measures like ESRA. (Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah sent a letter to leaders on the issue earlier this fall.) The bill would likely pass if it were put to a floor vote, but there just isn't enough time left in the session to make that happen. 

So does this mean ESRA is stalled for good? Probably not. Even though lawmakers will have to start the process over in a new Congress, the bill is well-positioned to move quickly.

"We are disappointed that it did not pass this Congress, but we're hopeful that it will be one of the first education bills passed in the new Congress," said Michele McLaughlin, the president of the Knowledge Alliance, which advocates for greater use of research in education policy.

And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the incoming chairman Senate education panel, is on the same page. He's "optimistic we can move quickly next year, but the calendar was just too tight this year," said Jim Jeffries, a spokesman.

So what would the bill actually do? Great explanation here from my colleague, Sarah Sparks

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