Education Secretary Arne Duncan had forged a bipartisan consensus on the need to overhaul the massive No Child Left Behind education spending bill when it comes up for a vote in the next Congress. But that frail consensus could prove an early casualty of the incoming tea-party-infused GOP majority.
Duncan wants to change the way the bill evaluates schools, because a chunk of improving schools with large numbers of English learners and students with disabilities will be deemed failing due to their test scores. Incoming House Education Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) agrees, but flatly told the New York Times that the House will not pass the Obama administration's blueprint for the new bill.
"The conversation with Arne was — not to be too blunt about it — that we've got to work with what we have here, a split Congress and a Democrat in the White House," Kline told the Times. "We don't get to just say, 'This is what we want,' and it magically becomes law. Some of these things are going to be hard."
Kline also opposes any more financing to Obama's pet education initiative, the $4 billion Race to the Top program, and wants hearings on how the money was disbursed through the stimulus. "I'd like to have somebody come explain to me how that worked, because there are a lot of questions out there," Kline said. The program rewarded states that adopted such education reforms as linking teacher pay to student test score performance.
New tea-party-backed members of Congress have set an education agenda of their own: giving tax credits to parents who want to home-school their children and preventing federal regulation of home-schooling, Dana Goldstein writes for the Daily Beast. At least 15 new House members have expressed support for abolishing the Department of Education because they think education should be locally controlled.
In all likelihood, then, a House Republican compromise on No Child Left Behind would have to come at the behest of incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was one of four lawmakers who crafted the original bill in 2001. He has said he wants to revise the bill to give more flexibility to states and school districts.
(Photo of Kline: AP)