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6 Takeaways From My Chat With House Edu-Chair John Kline

By Rick Hess — January 23, 2015 2 min read
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Yesterday, John Kline, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, spoke at AEI regarding what’s ahead for education in the new Congress. (The video can be viewed here.) As you might imagine, most of the discussion focused on ESEA reauthorization, but we also touched on questions like President Obama’s much-hyped plan for “free” community college. Here are six quick takeaways from the conversation.

1] While a lot of attention has focused on the Senate bill in recent weeks, Kline indicated that the House bill will likely move more rapidly than its Senate counterpart. He noted that the committee has held a slew of hearings on ESEA in the past couple years and said he expects to do a committee mark-up and vote the bill out of committee without holding new hearings. He said he’d be disappointed if the House hasn’t passed a reauthorization bill by the end of March.

2] Kline noted that the House and Senate are not going to try to pass the same bill. Rather, each chamber will develop and (potentially) pass its own version of the legislation. Kline made clear that the template for what we can expect in the House is HR5, the “Student Success Act” passed in 2013. The bills are likely to have significant differences, and those would have to be resolved in conference committee—at which point we can also expect the White House to be heavily engaged.

3] Kline indicated that he’s inclined to retain annual testing on the NCLB model, per the Student Success Act. However, he indicated he would like to scrap the entire federal AYP apparatus that tells states how to identify schools “in need of improvement” and the federal mandates governing interventions in low-performing schools. When asked about fears that getting the federal government out of the AYP and intervention business might leave vulnerable students at risk, Kline made clear that he just doesn’t think the federal should or can play that kind of role.

4] Kline was clearly unimpressed by Obama administration claims on behalf of ESEA or its school improvement strategies. He said that he thinks the waivers are an illegal tactic, educationally problematic, and a troubling source of policy uncertainty for state leaders.

5] He argued that there’s the potential to get much legislation enacted this year, but only if the administration is willing to work constructively with Hill Republicans. He mentioned workforce training and education science as areas where he’d like to see bills and said that he intends to push forward reauthorization of the Higher Education Act almost as rapidly as he is pushing ESEA. He seemed most confident that an education sciences bill would get passed and perhaps least certain about HEA.

6] He made clear that the president’s community college proposal is dead on arrival in the House. He dismissed the call for new taxes and argued that the House is much more interested in making it possible to reduce college costs than in providing more subsidies. Kline’s language also made clear that any early childhood proposal reliant on new taxes is a no-go in the current Congress.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.