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Senate Passes its Education Bill
Annual math, reading tests, but no vouchers
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Dateline: 6/15/01

After weeks of debate, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed 91-8 its version of a massive public education bill carrying an estimated cost of up to $38 billion in 2002 and requiring annual testing of all students.

A joint congressional conference committee must now be convened to reconcile differences between the Senate- and House-approved versions of the bill.

Senate Republicans estimate the cost of their version of the bill at $38 billion for fiscal 2002, the House version carries a $23 billion price tag, while President Bush's original No Child Left Behind plan cost only $19.1 billion. Even in these new days of bipartisanship, a $19 billion spread will take some major reconciling.

Here are some major points of the education bill passed Thursday in the Senate:

  • All 3rd - 9th grade students in all schools receiving federal funds would be required to take annual math and reading tests. Schools showing poor performance would get additional aid. Low income students in schools that failed to show improved grades within two years would be allowed to transfer to another school. Low income students in school showing no grade improvement in three years would be allowed to receive up to $1,500 in federal aid to pay for additional tutoring or transportation to a different public school. Schools not showing improvement by 2004 could suffer reduced federal funding. 

  • To help them improve student grades, public schools would be allowed more flexibility in how they utilized their federal funds. Up to 25 schools in seven states would be allowed even greater flexibility under an experimental program designed to improve student performance.

  • Schools found to discriminate against Boy Scouts or similar youth groups that "prohibit the acceptance of homosexuals" would lose their federal funding. This controversial provision came in the form of an amendment by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC, and approved by a 51-49 vote.

  • Schools would be prohibited from denying access to school facilities by any youth group, including the Boy Scouts, on the basis of the group's sexual orientation. This provision resulted from an amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and approved by a 52-47 vote.

The Senate approved bill did not provide for President Bush's private school voucher plan under which students in failing schools could have received up to $1,500 toward enrolment in private schools. However, it would allow those same students up to $1,500 for private tutoring or transportation to other public schools.

Senators voting against the bill included Republican Sens. Helms of North Carolina, Bennett of Utah, Kyl of Arizona, Nickles and Inhofe of Okalahoma and Voinovich of Ohio. Democrats opposed were Sens. Hollings of South Carolina and Feingold of Wisconsin. Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii did not vote.

The bill is H.R 1 - passed by the Senate in lieu of S.1 - Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization bill to "close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind." (Senate Vote Number 192)


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