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Key Members of Education Panels Retain Their Seats in Congress

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WASHINGTON--In a year when voters across the country sent more than 120 new lawmakers to Washington, they re-elected nearly every member of Congress who plays a major role in shaping education legislation and in determining federal education-funding levels.

The only casualties among members with key education assignments were Reps. Tom Coleman, R-Mo., and Joseph D. Early, D-Mass. Among two dozen other incumbents who were defeated, however, were many who were considered "friends of education'' by education lobbyists here.

Mr. Coleman, the ranking Republican on the House Postsecondary Education Subcommittee, played a crucial role in the bipartisan effort to rewrite the laws governing federal aid for college students. Pat Danner, a Democrat, defeated Mr. Coleman by a 10-point margin.

Mr. Early, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, fell victim to Peter Blute, a Republican, after being tarnished in the House bank-overdraft scandal.

Another member whose defeat was attributed to the overdraft issue, Thomas J. Downey, D-N.Y., was a leading player on child-care and welfare-reform legislation as the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Human Resources. He lost to Rick Lazio, a Republican.

Surprisingly, No Surprises

The fact that most senators and representatives who sit on education subcommittees, including those in leadership positions, were re-elected means a welcome consistency for education interests here.

"For the elementary and secondary education world, there was surprisingly little disturbance in the shape of things,'' said Michael Casserly, the acting executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. "The surprise was that there were no surprises.''

Education lobbyists said they are pleased that experienced legislators will be on hand when the incoming 103rd Congress rewrites the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"There is far more stability on the committees that govern education than in other areas of Congress,'' said Michael Edwards, the manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association.

In higher education, the blow of losing Mr. Coleman is softened by the recently completed rewrite of the student-aid laws.

Becky Timmons, the director of Congressional liaison for the American Council on Education, noted that Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., is in line to take Mr. Coleman's slot if Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., remains the Labor Subcommittee's ranking member and Ms. Molinari wants the job.

"I think she's typical of the newer members on [the] Education and Labor [Committee],'' Ms. Timmons said of Ms. Molinari. "They've been collectively the quickest studies I've seen in a long time.''

Goodling Survives Challenge

Among the influential members re-elected are:

  • Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa. In one of the most closely watched races among education lobbyists, Mr. Goodling, the ranking member on the Education and Labor Committee, survived a three-way race with 45 percent of the vote. His opponents, Paul Kilker, a Democrat, and Thomas Humbert, an independent, received 34 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Mr. Goodling was named an "abuser'' in the bank-overdraft scandal and was considered at risk of losing his seat.

  • Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich. The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee defeated his Republican challenger, Robert Geake, with 53 percent of the vote.
  • Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich. The chairman of the House Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee beat back a challenge by Megan O'Neill, a Republican, with 54 percent of the vote.
  • Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky. The chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education received 61 percent of the vote in defeating his G.O.P challenger, Bruce Bartley.
  • Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. The top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education withstood a strong challenge by Lynn Yeakel, a Democrat, to win 51 percent of the vote.
  • Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn. The chairman of the Senate Children, Family, Drugs, and Alcoholism Subcommittee was re-elected by defeating Brook Johnson, a Republican, with 61 percent of the vote.

Women, Minorities Gain

As of late last week, voters had elected at least 121 new members of Congress, including at least 11 new senators. Retirements, defeats, and committee-membership shifts mean that several of the newcomers should receive assignments on committees handling education-program authorization and education funding, observers say. (See Education Week, Oct. 28, 1992.)

More important, however, they say the tremendous increase in the number of women and minorities in Congress is likely to have a positive impact on education.

"I think minorities and women, in general, come with a real appreciation for education and an understanding that they've managed to be where they are because of education,'' Ms. Timmons of the A.C.E. said.

With one race yet to be decided, the Democratic majority in the Senate is three members short of the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster. But that gap should not pose a problem for the Democrats, lobbyists said.

"The dynamics [for moderate Republicans] are very different with a Democratic Administration,'' said Mr. Edwards of the N.E.A.

In the House, with six seats still undecided as of late last week, the Democrats are expected to lose about 10 seats, but still maintain a majority of more than 80.

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