Fix to No Child Left Behind passes conference committee

Long-awaited changes to the nation's K-12 policy got one huge step closer to completion Thursday.

Legislation that would alter No Child Left Behind passed through a conference committee of House and Senate members, with only one of the 40 committee members opposed: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Having already been through a months-long legislative process, the smooth, two-day conference committee was surely a relief for members and staff on the House and Senate education committees.

The bill would give states more power over what to do with failing schools, although it requires the creation of some state-designed plan to identify and reform failing schools. There would be less federally mandated testing in schools, and the remaining tests would not be tied to any federal consequences. The bill also prohibits the Department of Education from giving states special positive or negative incentives to adopt specific academic standards, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been doing with Common Core using waivers from No Child Left Behind.

The committee's first meeting was Wednesday, a cordial session with committee members giving opening statements. The committee met again Thursday to consider several amendments and consider final passage.

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Only one amendment to trim education funding was controversial. The House members agreed to the amendment by one vote, but the Senate members soundly rejected it, keeping it from the final bill. In the end, failure of the amendment did not appear to discourage anyone from supporting the legislation as a whole.

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