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White House threatens veto of GOP education bill

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 8:10pm  ET

PHILIP ELLIOTT
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama threatened Wednesday to veto House Republicans' rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law that could come to a vote this week.

If it were to become law, the GOP rewrite would scrap large swaths of the previous version in favor of greater local control and severe reductions to the Education Department's oversight role. The White House said the bill "would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our nation's children and their families prepare for their futures."

Republican officials said a vote could come as early as Thursday but Majority Leader Eric Cantor had not yet announced a schedule for the rest of the week. Republicans were counting votes to make sure the bill had enough support before announcing its formal addition to the schedule.

Some conservatives have groused that the revisions to the George W. Bush-era law still put too much emphasis on centralized education programs and keep in place required achievement tests. Other lawmakers have complained the rewrite does not do enough to give parents choices, such as public charter schools or private religious schools.

Lawmakers on Wednesday were considering amendments that would address those concerns as House members prepared a final slate of options for consideration, although the timing was uncertain.

"We intend to bring this to the floor as early as this week," Cantor said Tuesday.

"I think we will have success in getting Student Success Act across the floor because of the reform nature of the bill," he added when reporters pressed him for a timeline.

The Republican-backed bill is a more conservative proposal than the one Bush signed into law and eliminates dozens of school improvement programs. It gives state and local officials the power to implement reforms and explicitly bars Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his successors from encouraging states to implement national achievement standards known as the Common Core.

The bill also sends states money in a block grant to teach English-language learners, students from poor families and rural students. States could decide which students would benefit most from those dollars.

But that hasn't proved enough for some, including Cantor. He has introduced an amendment that would let students switch from a public school to a public charter school along with the federal money that supported the child's public schooling.

In near unanimity, Democrats are expected to oppose the amendment and the bill as a whole, which they have called the "Letting Students Down Act."

A Senate panel has already completed its work on a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. It, too, limits the Education Department's role and lets states write their own plans to improve schools. Unlike the GOP proposal, the secretary of education retains his approval role.

A vote of all senators has not been scheduled. Aides expect it would be autumn, if not later, before it makes its way to the full chamber.

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