So a number of outlets are reporting that Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and also the subcommittee on education spending, is not going to run for re-election. Obey is expected to make a “major” announcement later today.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan & Co. are probably greeting the news with (silent) cheers of joy and (discreetly) breaking open the champagne.
Obey has been super skeptical of Duncan’s reform agenda almost from the get-go, saying, for instance, that the department is setting cash-strapped school districts up for failure by expecting them to make progress on the four assurances (teacher quality, standards and assessments, data systems, school improvement).
And he was not at all a fan of the department’s strategy of funding incentive programs like Race to the Top, saying he’d much rather see the money slated for Title I grants to districts. He also had little love for the Teacher Incentive Fund, even though he did allow a pretty major increase for it to go through last year.
As for unions and some other education organizations representing practitioners...they may have just lost a powerful and outspoken ally. Of course, the ultimate outcome for education spending depends entirely on just who is tapped to succeed Obey.
UPDATE: Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, is really bummed by the news. Having Obey as both the chairman of the full committee and the subcommittee overseeing education meant a lot more money for schools, he said.
“He’s definitely one of the most tenacious and aggressive advocates” for Title I grants to districts and other key education programs, Packer told me. “He is going to be greatly greatly missed.”
Packer said that Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., may be next in line to take over the education subcommittee, but it’s likely that someone with more seniority would get the full committee chairmanship.