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Senate Passes No Child Left Behind Rewrite

Lamar Alexander shepherded the No Child Left Behind rewrite through the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Lamar Alexander shepherded the No Child Left Behind rewrite through the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

No Child Left Behind is a step closer to a major overhaul giving far more flexibility to states to act — or not — on poorly performing schools.  

The vote on the Senate bill — 81 to 17 — sends it to a conference with the House bill, which the White House threatened to veto. The Senate bill doesn’t have a veto threat hanging over it — but President Barack Obama hasn’t said he’d sign it either. His advisers and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been pushing hard for the bill to have requirements that states not only continue testing students to determine performance, but take action if schools continue to fail year after year after year.  

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who has spoken with the president this year on the issue, understands the need to get the White House on board. The chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is a former education secretary, governor and White House congressional liaison.  

Alexander, ranking Democrat Patty Murray of Washington and their staffs will get to work with House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn.  

“We’ll get right together with Chairman Kline, and I’m in favor of moving pretty rapidly,” Alexander told reporters earlier this week.  

“I’d like to work with the House and come up with something that the president can sign pretty quickly,” Alexander said. “We want a result, and under our constitutional system that takes a presidential signature, and … we’ve stayed in touch with him.”  

Legislative successes on big bipartisan bills have started to become routine in the new Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., despite a Democratic blockade of all appropriations until Republicans agree to spend more money.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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