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Senate committee votes to update education law

By Kimberly Hefling
AP Education Writer / October 20, 2011

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WASHINGTON—A committee forwarded to the Senate Thursday evening a bill that rewrites the education law No Child Left Behind. The bill would give states more control over accountability in schools and alter some of the law's proficiency requirements.

Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said that with the vote, his committee's measure would essentially do away with the unpopular law.

"We have moved beyond No Child Left behind," Harkin said in an interview. "I think it's very significant."

The 15-7 vote before Harkin's committee comes a month after President Barack Obama expressed frustration with Congress' inability to fix the law despite widespread agreement that it's flawed. He said states could seek waivers around some of its requirements if they meet certain requirements. A majority of states have said they intend to seek a waiver, which could be issued as early as next year.

The committee vote is one of the most significant efforts to update the law since it was passed in 2002.

The bill was the result of a bipartisan agreement between Harkin and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the committee's ranking Republican. But passing it hasn't been without tension.

Many Republicans said it would still leave too much control in the federal government's hands.

The administration, however, has expressed frustration that the bill doesn't require states to have districts develop teacher and principal evaluations systems and voiced concern that it doesn't do enough to ensure states set high standards.

The bill next goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be voted on by the end of the year. A House committee is reworking the law in a more piecemeal way. It has forwarded three bills, but hasn't yet fully tackled more contentious issues such as teacher accountability

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Kimberly Hefling can be followed at http://twitter.com/khefling