By Tanner Howard

WASHINGTON – Hoping to replace the No Child Left Behind law, House Republicans advanced legislation out of committee Wednesday reining in the federal government’s role in education as members once again sought to write legislation replacing the 2001 act.

NCLB was up for renewal seven years ago, but Congress only agreed to one-year extensions rather than a five-year renewal of the law, which is also called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, after the original federal education law.

Last year, the GOP’s Student Success Act made it out of the Republican-controlled House, but died in the Democratic-majority Senate. Now, Republicans hope that their new Senate majority could change the political calculus and allow them to pass the first educational reform bill since bipartisan NCLB became law in 2001.

The bill made it out of the Education and the Workforce committee Wednesday on a 22-15 vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats in opposition. Lawmakers hope to have the bill on the House floor by the end of the month.

Fourteen years after that law dramatically expanded the federal government’s role in education, the GOP hopes to pull back many of its federal powers. The proposed changes include revoking federal school intervention and accountability measures, repealing Common Core standards in place in 44 states and eliminating more than 65 federal education programs.

Republicans on the committee criticized the current system of allocating Title I funding for low-income students. Under law, only schools with at least 40 percent low-income students qualify for Title I funding. The2015 bill would allocate Title I funds on a per-student basis, regardless of a school’s overall percentage of low-income students.

“In my district, many schools fall just below that cutoff,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala. “ESEA is poorly thought out, and the money doesn’t get where it should go.”

Democrats on the subcommittee attacked the Republican-sponsored bill because they said it failed to protect low-income kids, disabled students and recent immigrants in student bodies..

In his opening remarks, Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, called the bill “a disservice to the history” of the federal law as civil rights legislation.

“This bill would turn back the clock on equity and accountability in the American public education system,” he said.

Scott and other Democrats said the reauthorization bill would hurt non-English speaking students who have benefited since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was first enacted in 1965. Noting the changing demographics of the nation’s public schools, several Democrats claimed that the bill would disproportionally hurt minority students.

“We have made progress, but inequality continues to persist in our education system,” said Rep. Rául Grijalva, D-Ariz. “There are new faces, different faces of America, but they’re still Americans.”

Democrats proposed an amendment that would maintain Title III of the law’s English language assessment programs, increasing funding by $250 million to $1 billion. The committee rejected the amendment.

Should Republicans successfully move the bill through Congress, the latest iteration of the education law could reach President Barack Obama’s desk dramatically altered from the first federal education law passed 50 years ago and also from the 2001 No Child Left Behind law. If Wednesday’s hearing is any indication, the bill faces a hostile opposition from Democrats seeking to block Republican’s efforts to diminish federal government’s role in public education.