House Approves Education Bill Free of School Voucher Amendments
July 19, 2013
The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 221-207 in favor of a bill that would reauthorize yet significantly overhaul the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
H.R. 5, called the Student Success Act, rolls back many of the federal standards mandated in the 2001 reauthorization of ESEA, known as the No Child Left Behind Act. However, the bill does not include any language to create a federal school voucher program, which would funnel taxpayer dollars intended for the public school system to private and religious schools.
Before coming to the floor, the House Committee on Rules considered two voucher amendments. Amendments 60 and 74, proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), respectively, would have allowed Title I funding — roughly $14 billion that is specifically designated for schools most in need of help — to follow students to private or religious schools. Fortunately, both of these amendments were rejected.
The Rules Committee did approve a so-called "portability" amendment. Amendment 30, proposed by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), would make Title I funds portable — but only to public and charter schools. The full House passed this amendment with a simple voice vote, this including it in the final House bill.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) does not have an official position on portability, but we do track the issue, as portability measures are often intended as a first step toward vouchers. If you would like to learn more about portability, you can read this one-page summary sheet by the National Education Association.
CFI previously worked with member groups of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) to successfully fight voucher amendments in education committee markups in both chambers of Congress. You can read about those efforts here. We continued to fight voucher amendments leading up to the full House vote, and are pleased that Amendments 60 and 74 were defeared.
Today's vote puts the spotlight back on the Senate, which will likely consider its dramatically different ESEA reauthorization bill in September — at which point new voucher amendments could be proposed. CFI remains dedicated to defending public education as a common good, and protecting taxpayer dollars from being used for private and sectarian religious education. We will keep our supporters updated as the situation develops.