The House passed a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act in a razor-thin vote Wednesday night, ignoring a White House veto threat and pushing on with legislation that would ease the federal government’s role in public education.
The bill passed by a mere five votes in the final 218-213 roll call. No Democrats voted for the legislation, with 27 Republicans joining them in opposition.
The rewrite, called the Student Success Act, is the first serious attempt to overhaul the sweeping No Child Left Behind law since it technically expired in 2007.
Republicans touted Wednesday’s passage as a step forward in refocusing education policy to local control, while Democrats argue a provision in the bill allowing states to link federal dollars to individual students in low-income areas would exacerbate inequalities in poor school districts.
Conservatives contend the legislation does not go far enough in scaling back the federal government’s hand in public education.
“The SSA as it stands is a missed opportunity for conservatives to restore state and local control of education,” said Lindsey Burke, an expert in education for The Heritage Foundation.
Conservatives pushed for an amendment that would have allowed states to opt out of the nearly 80 federal programs under No Child Left Behind while still maintaining federal funding.
The A-PLUS amendment would have given states the option instead to direct federal education funding toward state-established programs.
Though the amendment ultimately failed to move forward with the Student Success Act, it cinched 195 votes with over 80 percent of Republicans in the House supporting it.
“Last night’s showing for the policy included in A-PLUS was a tremendous step forward,” Burke said.
Wednesday’s passage marked a success for House Republican leadership who failed to whip enough support for the Student Success Act in February, forcing them to withdraw the bill from the floor until its reintroduction this week.
Congress still has a long road ahead in overhauling No Child Left Behind. The Senate is currently debating a more bipartisan rewrite, signaling potentially contentious negotiations to smooth differences between the two bills before an update can be sent to the president’s desk.