A former educator and 15-term House member is taking the helm of the House Appropriations Committee panel that oversees the Department of Education’s budget.
Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, was named this month to chair the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee. His reputation as a political pragmatist, coupled with his education experience, has fueled optimism from education lobbyists who favor more spending on schools.
“We’re pleased to see that a former educator is in that position, someone who has an idea and understanding of how schools work at the local level,” said Dan Fuller, the director of federal programs for the National School Boards Association.
In an interview last week, Rep. Regula predicted that the Education Department’s budget would continue to climb under his tenure.
“If you interpret the phrase that ‘no child be left behind,’ that’s got far-reaching implications both in terms of dollars and programs,” he said, referring to a frequent declaration by President Bush in his campaign last year.
Mr. Regula, 67, has firsthand experience in education, as a teacher, elementary school principal, and Ohio state school board member. Beyond that, his daughter has worked as both a school and college librarian, and his wife formerly was a teacher.
“It’s kind of a family history,” he said. “I think what it’s done is made me sensitive to the importance of education.”
Rep. Regula, who represents the 16th congressional district in northeastern Ohio, also has substantial experience dealing with budget matters. He held the ranking Republican slot on the Appropriations Committee’s Interior Subcommittee from 1985 to 1994, and served as its chairman until this month. Under term limits adopted by House Republicans in 1994, committee and subcommittee chairmen must relinquish their posts after six years.
But that rule also freed up Mr. Regula to switch to the education subcommittee, where he will replace former Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., as that panel’s chairman, or “cardinal,” as the leadership posts on the Appropriations Committee are known.
‘Same Approach’ as Porter
In his new role, Mr. Regula will play a critical role in developing plans for federal spending in education.
“The chairman has the authority and discretion to work out the first draft of the funding numbers, program by program,” said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a broad coalition of school groups that lobbies for more federal education spending. Rep. Regula will also manage the appropriations bill that covers education once it reaches the House floor.
Mr. Kealy said Mr. Regula’s selection was “good news, because it gives us someone who is in the mold of [former Chairman] John Porter.” Mr. Porter, who retired from Congress this month, was generally viewed as an advocate for increased education spending who worked well with the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin.
Rep. Regula confirmed the similarity. “John and I have the same approach,” he said, noting that the former Illinois lawmaker had urged him several times to seek the subcommittee chairmanship.
A version of this article appeared in the January 24, 2001 edition of Education Week as Regula To Chair Key Appropriations Panel