WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his successors would be relegated to cheerleaders for the nation's schools, and governors would be put in charge of classrooms under companion bills Senate and House Republicans introduced Thursday.

The top Republicans on Congress' education committees unveiled rewrites to the nation's sweeping law known as No Child Left Behind, which governs elementary and secondary schools that receive tax dollars. While there were differences in the details, the Republicans' overall approach would give governors final responsibility for holding schools accountable and largely limit the Education Department to promoting the importance of learning.

"We would stop Washington, D.C., from deciding whether schools and teachers are failing and restore those decisions back to state and local governments," the top Republican on the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told The Associated Press in an interview.

The chairman of the House Education Committee said Washington was a poor arbiter of what works – and what does not – in schools.

"We're not leaving the secretary in the position of judging that system," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

The state-by-state approach to education standards is already largely in place in the 37 states that received permission from Duncan to ignore the No Child Left Behind requirements in exchange for customized school improvement plans. The other states face the threat of being deemed failing schools if they cannot demonstrate their students perform at grade level in reading and math – a designation that could cost them federal education dollars.

Under Republicans' plans, states would determine if their schools are succeeding, and they could ignore previous federal requirements to show they are getting better every year.

Critics have said such approach lacks accountability and retreats back to the systems in place before President George W. Bush and Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy passed No Child Left Behind with bipartisan support in 2001.

"You're assuming a state doesn't care," Kline said to those critics.

"They should all be striving for excellence," he added during a conference call with reporters.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, governs all schools that receive federal dollars for the poor, minorities, disabled and students whose primary language is not English. In exchange for those federal dollars, schools must meet standards, previously set by Washington but increasingly dictated by state capitols even before the competing No Child Left Behind renewals are debated.

Senate Democrats' plan, introduced Tuesday, would also require states to develop new efforts but requires the education secretary to approve them.

That final step for approval is unacceptable to Republicans including Alexander, himself an education secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

"The parents and teachers and governor should have the ball and the U.S. secretary of education and Department of Education should create an environment in which the parents, the teachers and the governors can succeed, rather than have a national school board that has to approve standards and tests and the quality of teachers in 100,000 different public schools," said Alexander.

A Senate committee is scheduled to take up the Democratic bill next week. A vote by the full Democratic-controlled Senate has not been scheduled and Democratic aides suggested it could be autumn before one occurs.

House Republicans were set to start work on their legislation on June 19. Aides said they were planning on a full vote by the House before lawmakers leave for August recess.

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  • The Numbers

    The House has 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats. Each party should pick up one more seat when two vacancies are filled. Going into the election, the GOP edge was 242-193. Senate Democrats will have a caucus of 55, including two independents, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Republicans have 45. That's a pickup of two seats for Democrats. <em>(Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>)</em>

  • Women

    The House will have 79 women, including 60 Democrats. At the end of the last session, there were 50 Democratic women and 24 Republican women. The new Senate will have 20 women members, an increase of three. That consists of 16 Democrats and four Republicans. The last Senate had 12 Democratic women and five Republicans. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>)

  • Freshmen

    With two vacancies to be filled, the House has 82 freshmen; 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. As of the end of the last session, 87 of 103 freshmen were Republicans. The Senate will include 14 new faces, with nine Democrats and the independent King. Five are women. New senators include Brian Schatz, who was sworn in on Dec. 27 to fill the seat of the late Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>) <em>(Pictured at left: Incoming House freshmen of the 113th Congress pose for a group photo on the East steps of the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. AP Photo/Susan Walsh)</em>

  • African Americans

    The House will have 40 African-Americans, all Democrats. The number of Democrats is unchanged, although two Republicans will be gone: Allen West, R-Fla., lost his re-election bid, and Tim Scott, R-S.C., was appointed to fill the Senate seat of Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who is retiring. Scott will be the first black lawmaker in the Senate since Roland Burris, who retired in 2010 after filling the Illinois Senate seat of Barack Obama for almost two years. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>) <em>(Pictured at left: Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to replace outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., walks out of the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. AP Photo/Susan Walsh)</em>

  • Hispanics

    The new House will have 33 Hispanics, with 25 Democrats and eight Republicans. That's up slightly from last year. The Senate will have three Hispanics: Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida and Republican freshman Ted Cruz of Texas. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>) <em>(Pictured at left: Rep.-elect Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaks with members of the media after a news conference with newly elected Democratic House members on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)</em>

  • Other Minorities

    The new House will have nine Asian Americans, all Democrats. There are two American Indians: Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Ben Lujan, D-N.M. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>) <em>(Pictured at left: Sen.-elect, current Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and her husband, Leighton Oshima ride the Senate Subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)</em>

  • Other Facts

    According to CQ Roll Call newspaper, the average age of House members in the 113th Congress is 57; the average age of senators is 62. It estimates that the House will include some 277 Protestants and Catholics, 22 Jews, two Muslims and two Buddhists. The Senate will have 80 Protestants and Catholics and 10 Jews. The House will have its first Hindu, Rep.Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Senate freshman Mazie Hirono, also of Hawaii, will be the Senate's only Buddhist and its first Asian American woman. Also for the first time, white men will be a minority among House Democrats. (Text <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130103/us-new-congress-glance/">via the Associated Press</a>) <em>Pictured at left: Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii is seen on stage during a news conference with newly elected Democratic House members, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)</em>