Winds of Change in Congress To Hit Education, Too
WASHINGTON--The major changes expected in personnel and operations when Congress reconvenes next January will be evident as well in the committees that handle education funding and legislation, Capitol Hill observers said last week.
Analysts expect as many as 150 new members to take office in the 103d Congress, as deaths, electoral defeats, and retirements have thinned the ranks of veteran lawmakers.
A number of members who have served on committees dealing with education will not be returning to Washington as the result of retirements and primary defeats, and others are in the midst of difficult re-election campaigns.
But how much change will occur, and how much it will affect education policy, will not be known until at least several weeks after Election Day, and probably not until the new Congress settles in.
"There's going to be a substantial change in the makeup of all committees, not only because of retirements and electoral defeats, but also because this creates a domino effect among members who are re-elected and who seek an assignment on a more powerful committee or a committee with more relevance to their district,'' said Michael Edwards, the manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association. "We're playing around with a lot of jello at this point.
Moreover, he warned, "I wouldn't take any seats for granted.''
The competitive race most closely watched in the education community is the re-election effort of Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa.
Mr. Goodling, the ranking member on the Education and Labor Committee, is a former educator, and advocates list him as one of the few members of Congress who thoroughly understands education policy.
After 18 years in the House, Mr. Goodling is engaged in the political fight of his life after having been tarnished by the House banking scandal, in which he was named an "abuser'' by the House Ethics Committee. Analysts say Mr. Goodling may also suffer from the weakness of President Bush's re-election campaign in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Goodling, who survived a more difficult than usual primary, is considered vulnerable against his challengers, Paul V. Kilker, a Democrat, and Thomas Humpert, an independent.
"We don't take partisan positions, but it would be a real shame for education if he were to lose,'' said Nick Penning, the director of legislation for the American Association of School Administrators.
Several other veteran members of the committee are finding themselves in tight races, including Rep. Tom Coleman, R-Mo., who is the ranking member of the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee; Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., who is battling Montana's other representative, Ron Marlenee, a Republican, for the lone seat left the state after reapportionment; and Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., who chairs the Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee.
Additional new faces may come to the panel, which is generally not considered one of the more desirable committee assignments, as members leave for openings on other House committees, especially the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Senate G.O.P. Shifts
The membership of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee is expected to remain relatively stable, although its Republican leadership will shift.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah plans to give up his status as the panel's ranking Republican for a similar position on the Judiciary Committee. That will allow Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., the opportunity to become ranking member of the full committee.
Formerly ranking member of the Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee, Ms. Kassebaum this year was praised by Democrats on the committee for her work in crafting a higher-education reauthorization bill with bipartisan support.
Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who was known as an education advocate when he served as ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, would be in line to take Ms. Kassebaum's spot. But he would have to relinquish his ranking status on the Labor Subcommittee.
The only panel member who is considered to face any potential danger next week is Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., who chairs the Children, Family, Drugs, and Alcoholism Subcommittee . Mr. Dodd is facing an independently wealthy challenger, Brook Johnson, who has mounted an extensive television campaign.
Of the members of Congress who have already resigned or been defeated in primary elections, Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., is perhaps best known in education circles.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Mr. Wirth sought to increase education spending in the fiscal 1992 budget resolution. He also tried without success to amend the 1992 appropriations bill to allow a transfer of defense dollars to education programs, and was a co-sponsor of a bill that that would have allowed such transfers.
Mr. Wirth, who has earned awards from the Committee for Education Funding, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, announced in April that he would not seek another term.
In March, Rep. Carl D. Pursell, R-Mich., who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, made a similar announcement.
A supporter of elements of the Bush Administration's America 2000 education program, Mr. Pursell is likely to be replaced by Rep. John Porter, R-Ill., who has sought in recent appropriations bills to secure more impact-aid money for schools in his district.
Maneuvers on Appropriations
The chairman of the education-funding subcommittee, Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., may assume the official chairmanship of the full Appropriations Committee if Rep. Jamie L. Whitten, D-Miss., who is in poor health, steps down.
Mr. Natcher is already the de facto chairman, but has said he would not challenge Mr. Whitten for the formal position. However, other more junior members may make runs at the leadership post if Mr. Whitten refuses to step down.
Mr. Natcher, who would retain chairmanship of the subcommittee if he also chaired the full committee, has strongly supported making as much money as possible available for education programs, according to lobbyists. As chairman, however, he would also have to contend with competing demands in supervising spending allocations to 12 other subcommittees.
"Full-committee chairmen have responsibilities that go beyond their own purview,'' said Susan Frost, the C.E.F.'s executive director.
On the Senate side, there are likely to be fewer significant changes on the Appropriations Committee, although at least two Democrats and one Republican on the Senate Labor, Health and Human Resources, and Education Subcommittee will be departing.
In addition, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who is the ranking member of the subcommittee, is in the midst of a difficult re-election bid. His Democratic opponent, Lynn Yeakel, has been endorsed by the state's N.E.A. affiliate. The state's American Federation of Teachers affiliate has not endorsed either candidate, although the Philadelphia local has endorsed Ms. Yeakel and the state president, Al Fondy, has come out for Mr. Specter.
Should Senator Specter be defeated, Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, R-Ore., would be in line to assume ranking-member status. To do so, however, Mr. Hatfield would have to relinquish that role on the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, which is a position of considerable importance for his home state.
Committee rosters are expected to be determined at organizing meetings scheduled for mid-December.
In addition, House Democrats may opt to structurally alter the committee system.
Aides said lawmakers are considering reducing the number of
subcommittees for each committee and limiting the number of
subcommittees a member can sit on.