Senate HELP Committee Amendments to Every Child Achieves Act

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted unanimously to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), through the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act 2015 (ECAA). The bill is likely to pass the Senate, but the bill is not on the Senate floor calendar yet.

The Committee ultimately passed 29 amendments and defeated 8 amendments. The Committee authorized Ready to Learn, the Math/Science Partnership Program, Special Education and education technology, the Investing in Innovation program, and Innovation Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (i-TECH) among others.

Controversial amendments that are likely to be debated heavily on the Senate floor, include Senator Cassidy’s (R-LA) proposal that singles out dyslexia for special education, Senator Burr’s (R-NC) proposal to alter the funding formula in Title II, and Senator Casey’s (D-PA) proposal for a plan to stop bullying.


A complete list and description of the amendments passed is below:


Title II Amendments Relating to Teachers and Principals

  • School LeadershipBennet, Casey – Passed by voice vote, this amendment adds language to provide opportunities for a cadre of effective teachers, principals, and school leaders to lead evidence-based professional development for their peers; to provide career opportunities for teachers, principals, and school leaders to grow as leaders, including hybrid roles that allow teachers to voluntarily serve as mentors or academic coaches while remaining in the classroom; and to provide training and support for teacher leaders and school leaders who are recruited as part of instructional leadership teams.
  • Title II Funding Formula – The Committee considered three separate amendments on this subject:
    • Burr, Bennet – Passed by voice vote and would revise the state allocation formula for Title II by reducing the amount allocated by population from 35 to 20 and increase the amount allocated by poverty from 65 to 80.
    • Burr – Passed 11-10 and would phase out state hold harmless over 7 years by 14.92% per year.
    • Casey – Passed 12-9 (though superseded by Burr amendment above) and would limit any State’s loss from elimination of hold harmless to 75%.


According to the analysis of a Senate aid, Burr’s amendment would gradually phase out the current hold harmless provision in No Child Left Behind over seven years, while Casey’s amendment would have modified the formula over the next 5 years before getting rid of it completely. The “hold harmless” provision, which was at the heart of the debate, currently allocates professional development funding for states at levels tied to 2001 population levels. As mentioned in the mark-up, states such as North Carolina – that have seen large population growth – would benefit from updating the formula to reflect current population levels. On the other hand, states like Pennsylvania and Louisiana would lose money if the formula is modified this way in the updated law. For now, Burr’s position appears to control in the Committee-passed bill.


Career and Technical Education

  • CTE Proficiencies ReportingBaldwin – Passed by voice vote and would require the reporting of the number and percentage of students attaining career and technical proficiencies on state, local, and school report cards.


Early Education

  • Early Education Grants: Murray, Isakson, Casey, Kirk – Passed by voice vote, was a priority for Senator Murray and had Alexander’s vote. The early education amendment amends Title V to authorize early learning alignment and improvement grants. The bill originally released by the Senate included some early education provisions, but the grant program added by this amendment does more and would allow states to use federal resources to improve and expand high quality early childhood education.



  • i-TECH Education Technology Grants – Baldwin, Hatch – Passed by voice vote and would provide grants to SEAs, LEAs, and schools to use technology to improve college and career readiness and require districts receiving grants to expend at least 50% of funds on professional development and technology training for teachers and school leaders, and includes language regarding blended learning projects and open educational resources.
  • Grants to Improve Assessments – Baldwin, Cassidy, Casey, Whitehouse, Franken – Passed by voice vote and would provide competitive grants to states to work with institutions of higher education to improve the quality, validity or reliability of state assessments; to develop or improve assessments for students with disabilities; to measure student growth over time; and to evaluate student achievement through new assessments, such as competency-based models, computer adaptive test, or portfolios. States can also use funding under this section to audit their state assessments.
  • Ready to Learn TelevisionCasey, Baldwin, Franken – Passed by voice vote and would provide grants to develop, produce and distribute education and instructional video programming for preschool and elementary school students and their parents.
  • Computer Adaptive Assessments – Franken – Passed by voice vote and states that academic assessments will evaluate if students are on grade level and what grade level they perform at. the amendment specifically states that nothing in the amendment should be construed to prohibit states from developing their own computer adaptive assessments.
  • STEM Improvement – Franken, Kirk, Murray, Baldwin – Passed 12-10 and would improve STEM instruction/achievement by authorizing grants to recruit, retain, and support highly rated STEM teachers. Establishing STEM Master Teacher Corps is a use of funds under this amendment but not a separate program.
  • Innovation GrantsBennet, Hatch – Passed by voice vote, this amendment  authorizes the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program. The program would provide grants to SEAs, LEAs, consortiums of states, or LEAs and SEAs working with a nonprofit, business, CBO, or institution of higher education to develop, implement, replication, or scaling up of rigorous testing of entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students.