However, senators voted down U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s proposed amendment to expand public pre-kindergarten education.
The Every Child Achieves Act passed by an 81-17 vote. Casey’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 45 to 52.
In a statement, Casey noted he has introduced pre-K legislation in every Congress since 2008, and this is the first time it has received a full Senate vote.
“While I had hoped for a better result I will continue to work to ensure that a substantial investment in Pre-K becomes law,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said.
Casey’s amendment would have provided more than $30 billion nationwide over five years for full-day education for 3- and 4-year-old children. Pennsylvania would have received $817 million.
Originally, the cost was to be offset by closing the corporate “inversions” tax loophole, which lets firms avoid taxes by establishing overseas headquarters.
When Republicans objected, Casey instead proposed using the “Buffet Rule,” which would set a minimum tax rate for high-income taxpayers.
That change secured a vote, Casey spokesman John Rizzo said. Nevertheless, the amendment ultimately did not pass.
The Every Child Achieves Act dials back on No Child Left Behind’s testing mandate.
The Senate bill would leave in place the law’s annual testing schedule. But senators voted to give states and districts more control over whether and how to use tests to assess the performance of schools, teachers and students.
“This change, in my opinion, should produce fewer tests and more appropriate ways to measure student achievement,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R.-Tenn., one of the bill’s prime authors.
A week ago, the House passed its own update of the 2002 law that President George W. Bush pushed.
Thursday’s vote thus sets the stage for potentially contentious negotiations with the House on a final bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.