Though the two bills differ in many areas, they both would significantly roll back the federal role in education. Both bills still require annual testing, but no longer require certain benchmark scores for students to achieve (known in No Child Left Behind as Adequate Yearly Progress.) Further, both bills leave the discretion to states as to when and how to intervene in low-performing schools. This is a marked change from NCLB’s system of increasing sanctions if schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress.
The Coalition for Community Schools can point to key wins for the community schools movement that were incorporated into the Senate bill. These include:
- An amendment to establish a Full-Service Community Schools grant program
- An amendment to make it an allowable use of Title IV funds to designate or hire a coordinator
- Inclusion of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
- Requirement for districts receiving Title IV funds for safe and healthy students to conduct a community-based needs assessment
- Requirement for states and districts receiving Title I funds to describe how they will address school climate (including attendance) and school discipline (including suspensions and expulsions) in their Title I plans and implementation
By October, the Chairpersons and Ranking Members of the House and Senate education committees will announce a conference committee of members who will tackle the challenge of combining both bills into one bill that both sides can support and that the President will be willing to sign. A number of tensions exist in this negotiation process, including:
- Accountability: Many Democrats want to beef up accountability to trigger interventions when schools fall below certain graduation rates and demonstrate significant subgroup achievement gaps, and this is an important issue for the White House as well.
- Choice: The House bill allows Title I portability, or the option for parents to use Title I money to send their children to any school of their choice, which would dissipate the concentration of Title I funds for high-poverty schools. Several Democrats and the White House strongly oppose this, and this could be a deal-breaker.
- Programs: The House bill eliminates virtually all federal programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, School Counseling, and others, while the Senate bill eliminates many. There will be robust debates about whether to preserve programs or streamline funding into block grants that states and districts can choose how to spend.
For updates, refer to our federal policy webpage and follow Director of Public Policy Mary Kingston Roche on Twitter at @kingston_m.