ESEA Heads to Conference

2015-08-06 | , National Association of School Psychologists

After months (well, years actually) of advocacy, hearings, mark-ups, briefings, and Hill visits the House and the Senate have both finally passed a bill intended to re-authorize ESEA.  However, our work is just beginning as the bill now heads to conference, with a much smaller window of time to get things done.

What is Conference?

You may remember the Schoolhouse Rocks video “I’m Just a Bill” that explained how a bill becomes a law.   Although somewhat simplified, this video highlights one important fact-it is really hard to make a law.  Congress has been trying for the last seven years to reauthorize ESEA, and this is the first time that we have made it to the point of a Conference Committee.   In short, a Conference Committee is formed to reconcile the differences between the legislation passed by the Senate, and legislation passed by the House.   Sounds easy, right?  Not in this case.  There are significant differences between the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act, and the House’s Student Success Act.  This chart, that compares NASP recommendations to the policy proposals in the Senate and the House bill, will give you an idea of the difficult task before us, especially as it relates to the NASP priority of ensuring access to comprehensive learning supports and creating safe and supportive learning environments. 

In accordance with Congressional rules, once the conferees (members of the conference committee) are appointed, the clock officially starts.   The Conference committee has 45 days and 25 legislative days to produce a conference report, which must be approved by a majority of conferees from both the House and the Senate. The House and the Senate must then each pass an identical version of the bill before it can be presented to the President to sign.  If a report is not produced during this time period, than any member of Congress can propose any type of amendment (even if it has nothing to do with the bill being discussed) which would most likely derail the whole process.

We expect that conferees will officially be appointed in October, meaning that we could see a final bill in mid to late November.  However, conversations and negotiations are already being discussed among members of the House and Senate.  NASP had great success inserting our policy priorities in the Senate bill; however, we must fight even harder to make sure they are maintained in the Conference compromise.  In the coming days and weeks, we will be providing you will materials, talking points, and tips to help you advocate for an education bill that ensures that all children thrive at school, at home, and throughout life.  I hope we can count on your voice!!