U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat who has been active on mathematics and science education, high school overhaul, and graduation rates, is set to play a big part in the push to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
He’s been asked by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, to take over as the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate on the renewal effort, stepping into the role vacated by former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who retired from Congress last year.
“Senator Bingaman is one of the many HELP Committee members with great expertise and interest in education reform,” said Justine Sessions, the committee chairman’s spokeswoman.
Sen. Bingaman will be a member of the “Big 8”—the key lawmakers from both sides of the aisle whom the Obama administration is courting in its push to renew the education law, said Jude McCartin, Sen. Bingaman’s spokeswoman.
The senator has a record of bringing bipartisan legislation to the finish line, including an energy bill in 2005. He recently championed the America COMPETES Act, working closely with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the ranking member of the Senate’s K-12 policy subcommittee.
(Sen. Alexander, also a member of the Big 8, will be a major Republican player on the ESEA, whose current version is the No Child Left Behind Act.)
Sen. Bingaman has an important connection to a key member of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s team. Carmel Martin, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, worked for the senator when NCLB was under consideration in the Senate, back in 2001. Now Ms. Martin is responsible for selling the administration’s ESEA proposal on Capitol Hill.
And Sen. Bingaman’s help could be especially important in a year when Sen. Harkin has a lot on his plate. In addition to keeping his lead role in the Senate on the ESEA negotiations, Sen. Harkin is likely to be very busy this year working to fend off Republican attempts to dismantle the health-care law.
A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2011 edition of Education Week as Bingaman Assumes New Role on ESEA