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Title I Portability for Private Schools to Get No Floor Vote in House NCLB Debate

When the U.S. House of Representatives considers amendments to the Republican-backed No Child Left Behind Act rewrite on Thursday, members will not get a chance to vote on a measure that would have allowed Title I money for low-income students to be used at private schools.

The ruling is a big win for those House Republicans, including education committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., who want to pass the NCLB overhaul bill without any snafus, and for House Democrats who don't want to see the rewrite become any more conservative.

Also of note, members will be allowed to debate an amendment that would let states to opt out of the Common Core State Standards. The bill already prohibits the education secretary or the administration from coercing states or providing incentives for them to adopt any set of standards. Ruling this amendment germane will put the controversial standards in the spotlight on the floor of either chamber for the first time.

The decisions were part of a ruling from the House committee that decides how bills are debated on the floor. It ruled late Wednesday evening that 44 of the 125 amendments filed to the bill would be debated on Thursday.

As it stands, the House bill would allow Title I dollars for low-income students to follow them to the public schools of their choice, including charter schools. But amendment filed to the bill by Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., would have further altered Title I portability and allowed those dollars to be used to pay for private schools.

The last time an NCLB rewrite bill hit the floor of the House, then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., wanted to offer the same amendment. But because it was feared that the provision would sink the bill if adopted, Cantor struck a gentlemen's agreement with Kline and ultimately withdrew it.

Notably, the committee did not OK a Democratic amendment that would have scrapped the portability language. It also refused to clear the way for debate on a slew of amendments offered by Democrats that would have would delayed elimination of maintenance of effort until the education secretary determines that doing so does not decrease spending on or reduce quality of teaching for students in poverty, English-learners, or student with disabilities.

The other blockbuster amendment category was testing.

As expected, the rules committee cleared a proposal from Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., that would allow states to use federal dollars to audit the number and rigor of tests they give and eliminate any that are redundant or of low quality. It also OK'd an amendment from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that would give states the authority to allow local districts to administer their own, locally designed assessments, in place of the state-designed assessments.

But the rule did not let through what was perhaps the most interesting testing amendment: a bipartisan proposal from 10 members that would have replaced current federal yearly testing requirements for math and English/language arts with the same grade-span testing requirements that are in current law for science.

In addition, the rule allows for a smattering of early-childhood education amendments including:

  • An amendment from Rep. Grace Meng, D-Calif., that would authorize (not appropriate) funds for the education secretary to provide grants for early-childhood education scholarships, among other things.
  • An amendment from Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., that would clarify that professional development focused on early-childhood education is an acceptable use of funds.
  • An amendment from Rep. Mark DeSaulinier, D-Calif., that would require districts to develop agreements with Head Start and other agencies to carry out early-childhood education activities. 

You can read about all the amendments the committee OK'd here

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