Congressman Steve King at Cerro Gordo GOP event on 3/18/14. Photo credit: Dave Davidson - Prezography.com
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was the only member of Iowa’s Congressional delegation to vote no. 
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

(Washington, DC) The U.S. House of Representatives was the first hurdle cleared for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that has not been reauthorized in seven years. The last time Congress reauthorized the education law was through the No Child Left Behind Act that was passed in 2001. The current bill, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), coasted through the House on Wednesday evening on a 359 to 64 vote.  The only opposition came from Republicans.

This was round two in attempt to reauthorize the bill.  Both the House and the Senate passed their own versions, but last month a conference report was approved.  The report was not made available to Congressional members and the public until Monday and was 1061 pages long.

Congressmen Rod Blum (R-IA), Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and David Young (R-IA) voted to reauthorize ESEA.  Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was the lone member of the Iowa delegation to vote no.

“I voted for H.R. 5, the House-passed Student Success Act, this summer because it advanced important conservative education principles like school choice.  However, when the bill was returned to the House for a vote yesterday as S. 1177, these conservative principles had all but been removed.   The bill did not repeal, sunset or even substantially roll back No Child Left Behind, and I could not support a bill that endorses the idea the federal government should continue micromanaging States, local governments and families on the critical matter of education,” King told Caffeinated Thoughts.

[Tweet “[email protected] was the only Congressman from Iowa to vote to #StopESEA”]

“This legislation kills Common Core and kicks the federal government out of Iowa’s schools and classrooms. This is a clear step in the right direction and a vote for local control of our education system – empowering parents to be in charge of their kids’ education plan, not some Washington bureaucrat,” Young said in a prepared statement after the vote.

“A no vote on this bill would have been a vote to continue the failed status quo of federal control. A no vote would have given the federal government a blank check to continue implementing policies and regulations mandating Common Core against the will of Iowa parents and the American people, I could not support that,” Young added.

Young told Caffeinated Thoughts prior to the vote that he hated voting on any federal education bill, but he said the thought this was the best solution under the current administration.

Emmett McGroarty, education director for the American Principles Project, disagrees with Republicans who voted in favor of the bill.  He complains that the process was flawed.

“Chairman Kline was correct when he said this bill was not a perfect bill. The gains that leadership points to in the bill are largely illusory. This bill has grave defects that are of real concern to parents, and these defects would have been avoided altogether had Congress bothered to listen to the people,” McGroarty said.

“It’s like the Obamacare process all over again — secret meetings, backroom deals, and nobody was given time to read the whole bill. When Obamacare came down, the GOP was quick to sound the alarm that there was never an opportunity for legislators to hold town hall meetings or discuss the legislation with constituents. Once again, we have a 1,000+ page bill that impacts every household in America, yet the people were completely cut out of the process — and this time by the very same party that cried foul over the very same process five years ago,” he added.

[Tweet “[email protected] on ESSA: It’s like the Obamacare process all over again. #StopESEA”]

McGroarty wasn’t alone in that assessment.

The ESSA may be better than No Child Left Behind, but that is a very low bar to clear. And while while the ESSA would make it harder for the Secretary of Education to dictate standards and accountability terms, it is not at all clear he couldn’t just keep rejecting state plans he doesn’t like. Finally, it is almost impossible to believe even a small fraction of the representatives who voted had read the entire 1000-plus page bill in the basically two days allotted to do so, so they may have missed all sorts of potential loopholes and unintended consequences,” Neal McCluskey, director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, told Caffeinated Thoughts. 

[Tweet “[email protected]: #ESSA being better than NCLB “is a very low bar to clear.” “]

House Democrats did a reversal on the bill as the entire caucus voted against the original House version of the bill. The bill saw less support from Republicans with 40 fewer Republicans voting for the ESEA reauthorization conference report than H.R. 5 which passed last summer.

You’ll notice that not a single Democrat rep voted against the bill — meaning the Democrats got everything they wanted in the conference committee. You’ll also note that Speaker Ryan is now responsible for passing a bill that was supported by more Democrats than Republicans,” Jane Robbins, a senior fellow for the American Principles Project, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

The most disgusting part of this is that most of our congressmen were so disdainful of their constituents that they were willing to let a mammoth bill be passed only two days after it was released to the public. None of them read it; none of their staffs read it; and even if they had, there is no possible way to have analyzed and understood it in 48 hours. Aren’t you glad we have a new transparent process under Speaker Ryan?” Robbins added.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.

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