Congress cramming to finish education bill

After months of work, lawmakers began the final preparations this week to reauthorize the long-expired Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main federal education funding bill.

The House-Senate conference to create a merged bill began Wednesday and is expected to be completed by Friday. Congress is expected to vote on the results when it returns from its Thanksgiving Day recess.

The frantic pace is to prevent a fragile bipartisan compromise from disintegrating by giving critics and stakeholders little time to pick it apart. Conservative activists, civil rights groups and teachers unions would like to see the legislation tilt more in their direction, but none has annnounced full opposition, hoping they can still sway the conference process.

The architects of the deal, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., are hoping that nobody wants to be the one that torpedoes it so close to the finish line. Alexander stressed during a House-Senate conference meeting Wednesday that the compromise was the best deal that could actually get signed into law.

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