Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, is throwing his hat in the ring for the “ranking member” (aka top Democratic) slot on the House education committee, beginning in 2015. Right now, that position is held by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., but he’ll be retiring at the end of this year.
Scott’s announcement comes just hours after news broke that Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will be stepping down from Congress this month to take a job at a Philadelphia law firm. Andrews is facing a House ethics investigation stemming from a potentially improper use of campaign funds. Andrews had told me just last week that he too was interested in the ranking member post.
Andrews is known primarily as a higher education guy, but Scott has a long interest in K-12, with a focus on equity. Back in 2007, for example, he sponsored a bill that would have held states accountable for improving graduation rates, including for poor and minority kids.
More recently, he introduced legislation that would officially authorize (Congress-speak for “create in law”) the Promise Neighborhood program, which helps communities pair K-12 schools with services such as healthcare or arts education. Scott, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, has an interest in juvenile justice.He has released legislation that would use education, mentoring, and other interventions to help combat gang violence and keep kids out of prison.
Alice Johnson Cain, who served as an aide to Democrats on the House education committee, said Scott can dive down into the policy weeds on wonky issues like graduation-rate calculations. And she said he tends to be more wary of using standardized tests to gauge student progress than Miller has been. (Scott’s favorite line about the No Child Left Behind Act: “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing it.”)
“He’s somewhat skeptical of current accountability and test-based accountability,” said Cain, who now serves as the vice president for policy at Teach Plus, nonprofit organization in Boston that works to empower educators to have a voice in policy. “But I think he’s got the right goals and the right focus, particularly his passion for closing the achievement gap.”
And Alex Nock, another former top aide to House Democrats, who now serves as executive vice president of Penn Hill Group, a government relations organization, said Scott, “is very passionate about the issues in front of the committee.” If he’s tapped for the ranking member slot, “he’ll have to decide what his priorities are.”
Just because Scott is interested in the post doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. He’ll have to get approval from House Democratic leaders to take it over. But he’s a senior member of the committee—the most senior member, in fact, after Andrews and Miller. That should work in his favor.
Scott may not be the only Democrat interested in the gig, however. Reps. John Tierney, of Massachusetts, and Raul Grijalva, of Arizona, are also rumored to be considering a bid for ranking member, although neither has said so publicly.
Scott’s annoucement comes at a time of turnover for the education panel. Miller is leaving, and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the committee’s chairman, may need a waiver from congressional leaders if he wants to stay at the helm of the panel.
Check out Scott’s statement announcing his move here.