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Lawmakers Reach Preliminary Agreement On A Makeover For 'No Child Left Behind'

Andrew Harnik
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is visible through fall foliage on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.

Congressional leaders have emerged from closed-door negotiations in Washington D.C. with a preliminary deal to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, raising hopes that lawmakers might be able to finally pass revisions for a federal law that's crucial to students and schools.

In July, the Senate passed a bill — which U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-sponsored with Republican Lamar Alexander — by a wide, bipartisan majority, just days after a much more conservative bill squeaked through the House.

The deal announced Friday now paves the way for lawmakers to merge those two proposals to re-write the law, now widely known as "No Child Left Behind," in a formal conference committee.

"Because of the framework we’ve developed, we are optimistic that the members of the conference committee can reach agreement on a final bill that Congress will approve and the president will sign," read a joint statement from Murray, Alexander and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va.

The new law likely means a smaller role for the federal government in setting education policies that shape testing, teacher evaluation, academic standards and sanctions for underperforming schools, according to Education Week's Politics K-12 blog.

The apparent breakthrough has big implications for Washington state schools.

The most recent iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act expired in 2007. Since Congress has, to date, been unsuccessful in their efforts to re-authorize it, U.S. Department of Education officials have given many states waivers from the law's toughest provisions.

But Washington state lost its waiver in 2014, meaning No Child Left Behind provisions now label every school in Washington state as "failing."