Rep. Jared Polis has indicated that the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SENDA) is on track to receive a key Senate Committee vote come June.
The legislation, introduced in the House by Rep. Polis (D-COL), would add to existing federal statutes explicit protections against bullying on the grounds of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
If schools receiving federal funds do not adequately combat and track incidents of anti-LGBT bullying or if school administrators are found to have discriminated against LGBT children then, under the bill, their federal funding may be cut.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker who works on education issues, said Monday the Senate panel with jurisdiction over education reform is set to consider the Elementary & Secondary Education Act reauthorization in June.
“It’s a very complex area of law, and it’ll begin with Senate markups in June as Chairman [Tom] Harkin has indicated he plans to hold,” Polis said during a conference call hosted by the Center for American Progress.
Polis predicted Harkin’s initial mark for Elementary & Secondary Education Act reauthorization wouldn’t contain the pro-LGBT measures and suggested a vote would take place in committee to include SNDA in the larger bill.
“Although we don’t expect to see SNDA in the chairman’s mark of the initial bill, we are optimistic we can amend the ESEA because all but one of the Democrats on the committee are co-sponsors of the Student Non-Discrimination Act,” Polis said.
In the Senate, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sponsors SNDA. He’s a member of the Senate HELP committee, so any amendment to include this measure as part of Elementary & Secondary Education Act reauthorization would likely come from him.
As of last week, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) was the sole Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee who wasn’t a co-sponsor of SNDA.
But Stephanie Allen, a Hagan spokesperson, said her boss this week signed on as co-sponsor for the student non-discrimination bill.
Hagan’s co-sponsorship means Democrats on the HELP committee are unanimous in their support for SNDA. Additionally, her support brings the total number of SNDA supporters on the panel to 12, the majority needed for passage in committee.
Hill insiders have cautioned that how action on education reform will be undertaken remains undecided however, and so movement on SENDA is not guaranteed even with conditions looking favorable.
It is hoped that, should the bill reach the Senate floor, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill) would be open to co-sponsoring the bill. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would also appear to be strong candidates for supporting the legislation based on previous support for LGBT friendly bills.
How far SNDA would progress in the U.S. House with a seemingly hostile GOP majority remains to be seen, however SNDA would appear on better footing as part of an overall education reform package than if it were a stand-alone bill.
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