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Published in Print: December 16, 1998, as Education Panels To Add Some New Players

Education Panels To Add Some New Players

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Tom G. Tancredo of Colorado plans to hit the ground running in the upcoming 106th Congress. And the former federal education official has found the perfect launch pad: the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The congressman-elect, who was the Department of Education's regional representative for its Denver-based office under Presidents Reagan and Bush, may be best known for spearheading a movement to put a plan for private school choice on the Colorado ballot in 1992. Though the measure failed, Mr. Tancredo has not given up on the idea of government-funded vouchers for private school tuition.

The Republican said in a recent interview that he would like to see a similar plan for all states. "It's certainly the most significant and important change we can make in education," he said. "I intend to spend my time on the committee advancing that."

Mr. Tancredo, of Littleton, which is just south of the Denver metropolitan area, is one of a handful of congressional freshmen and other members newly assigned to posts on the Senate and House panels that govern education policy.

New Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Republicans Democrats
Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio Assignments are pending.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.
Rep.-elect Tom G. Tancredo, R-Colo.
Rep.-elect Ernie L. Fletcher, R-Ky.
Rep.-elect Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
New Members of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee
Republicans Democrats
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. No new assignments pending.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

The House panel has added three GOP freshmen, including Mr. Tancredo, and two veterans, Matt Salmon of Arizona and John A. Boehner of Ohio. Mr. Boehner was voted out of the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference this fall.

The three new members, Mr. Tancredo, Ernie L. Fletcher of Kentucky, and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, campaigned on conservative ideas such as providing vouchers.

At press time, the Democratic leadership had not made its assignments for the committee, which this year had 25 Republicans and 20 Democrats. Matt Rodriguez, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., said last week that the decisions should be made in the coming week.

Local Control Emphasis

Mr. DeMint, who helped found a private school associated with his Presbyterian church in Greenville, S.C., campaigned on school choice and is also interested in working on the Dollars to the Classroom Act, said his political director, Dan Hamilton.

That measure would consolidate funding for numerous federal education programs into state and local block grants. It passed the House this year under threat of presidential veto and was not included in companion Senate legislation.

Mr. Fletcher is a former state legislator and an advocate of more local control of schools. He said recently that the success of next year's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--the main federal law on K-12 education--would depend on party and bipartisan communication.

"There's going to be a period in which I need to do a lot of listening," said Mr. Fletcher, who also was tapped as the freshman liaison to the GOP leadership.

In joining the education panel, Mr. Boehner returns to the committee where he served from 1991, his freshman term, to 1995, when he was elected to the party leadership.

"Expanded parental involvement and emphasis on local control will be the building blocks of our education agenda," said Dave Schnittger, his press secretary.

The spokesman added that Mr. Boehner has not decided whether to seek a subcommittee chairmanship on the panel or on the Agriculture Committee, where he ranks third in seniority.

In his past stint on the committee, Mr. Boehner pushed school choice issues, Mr. Schnittger said. He sought unsuccessfully to pass legislative language that would allow school districts to use Title I funds for choice programs.

Jay Diskey, the spokesman for the Republicans on the House education committee, which is led by Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, said it was too early to say what effect the five new Republicans might have on the committee.

Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, the 2.4 million-member teachers' union, agreed, adding that the ideological balance of the committee had not changed with the new appointments.

"We're disappointed overall that the membership is not a bit more moderate," said Mr. Packer, who last week was elected president of the Committee for Education Funding, a 90-group lobbying coalition based in Washington.

"Looking at Congress overall, we are optimistic that we will be able to move forward with school modernization efforts and continue class-size-reduction initiatives." Both are priorities of the Clinton administration.

Strong Chairmen

In the Senate, the GOP has replaced three departing members of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which includes education in its jurisdiction, with Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Chuck Hagel, the junior senator from Nebraska. Mr. Hagel recently lost a bid to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell in his party leadership post as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Leaving are Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia, who will lead the defense panel, Dan Coats of Indiana, who is retiring, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is set to succeed Mr. Warner as head of the Rules and Administration Committee.

The Democratic membership on the panel, which has 10 Republicans and eight Democrats, remains the same.

Subcommittee assignments on all panels were pending at press time.

The committee's three new senators, all of them in their first terms, are on record as endorsing more conservative education agendas than the committee's chairman, James M. Jeffords of Vermont.

The success of education in the 106th Congress likely will boil down to the toughness of the panels' chairmen, said Bruce A. Hunter, the executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of School Administrators. "They are going to have to provide strong leadership," he said.

Christopher T. Cross, the president of the Council for Basic Education, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes high academic standards, said both panels should focus on using educational research to set education policy.

"It's been the most neglected issue around," Mr. Cross said.

Vol. 18, Issue 16, Page 23

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