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Senators Making Progress in Negotiations on NCLB Rewrite

Senators negotiating on a bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act are making progress and plan to mark up the measure in the education committee mid-April, they said Monday.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., said:

"During the last several weeks we have been working together to build the base for legislation to fix the problems with No Child Left Behind. We are making significant progress in our negotiations. We are aiming to consider and mark up legislation to fix the law during the week of April 13th."

The announcement breathes new life into the prospects of updating the federal K-12 law, the chances of which were beginning to look bleak after nearly three weeks passed with no news coming out of the Senate negotiations.

Alexander and Murray did not elaborate on the specifics of education policy issues, like whether to maintain the annual testing requirement or allow Title I dollars for low-income students to follow them to the school of their choice—two of the biggest differences between how Republicans and Democrats would like to rewrite the federal K-12 law.

The updated timeline leaves questions as to whether Alexander will be able to convince Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reserve floor time for a debate on the negotiated measure. Alexander previously said McConnell had agreed to put the bill on the floor some time in March, and had been very clear about the need to move quickly on the bill in order to stay ahead of several more prime-time issues (like spending bills) that are expected to clog up the congressional calendar come spring.

It's unclear at this point how the new timetable will affect the bill's chances of landing on the chamber floor.

The announcement of progress between Alexander and Murray comes a little more than a week after Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives were forced to abandon a vote on a GOP-backed bill to overhaul the NCLB law amid a larger squabble over funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The author of that House bill, education committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., said late last week that the collapse in support was also a result of a post on an anti-Common Core State Standards blog that went viral. The post falsely stated that the bill would force states into using the common core, which caused some members of the GOP's own party to withdraw their initial support for the legislation.

Kline told the Associated Press that he was "hopeful" the measure would be brought back to the floor the week of March 16, when lawmakers will be back in the Capitol after this week's congressional recess.

Should both the House and Senate approve versions of an NCLB rewrite, leaders in both chambers would then work with the White House to conference a measure acceptable to all parties. 

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