School & District Management

House Democrats to Pursue Education Agenda With New Majority

By David J. Hoff & Alyson Klein — November 08, 2006 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

Democrats will have the chance to keep their promises to make college affordable now that they have won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. As for the No Child Left Behind Act, the leading House Democrat on education has signaled his desire to retain the law’s central accountability provisions.

The control of the Senate remained in the balance early today, though, because the close Virginia race hasn’t been decided. Democrat Jim Webb leads incumbent Republican George Allen by about 8,000 votes, a margin small enough to trigger a recount that could take several weeks. In Montana, state Sen. John Tester declared himself the winner by a margin of 2,000 votes, but that has yet to be confirmed. Democrats need win both seats to have the majority in the Senate.

In State Races, Democrats’ Success Sets Stage for New Education Agendas
House Democrats to Pursue Education Agenda With New Majority
Voters Defeat Funding Measures, But Also Refuse to Restrict Spending
Idaho State Chief’s Race Goes to GOP, While South Carolina Heads for Recount
View election data map.

Throughout the campaign, House Democratic leaders promised to push an agenda that would lower student-loan interest rates in their initial rush of legislation and later offer tax credits to help families pay college expenses.

In addition, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the leading candidate to become the chairman of the House education committee, said he would work with President Bush and Republicans to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law as scheduled next year. The almost 5-year0old law is the centerpiece of President Bush’s education agenda.

Mr. Miller said the education panel would exam critical issues, such as how to measure student growth in state accountability systems and how to assess students with disabilities and English language learning. And he said he would try to build a coalition that could generate enough support to pass changes to the law.

“I think the fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of critics of the bill,” he said in an interview. “But there’s a lot of supporters of the legislation in terms of we have an obligation to provide a first class learning opportunity to poor and minority children in this country.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who would be in line to chair the Senate education committee under a Democratic majority, also supports the law’s basic tenets.

At a White House press conference this afternoon, President Bush said he would work with Democrats to develop bipartisan bills on a variety of issues, specifically including the No Child Left Behind law.

“All I know to do is to make decisions based upon principles that I believe are important, and now work with Democrat leaders in the Congress because they control the committees and they control the flow of bills. And I’m going to do that for the good of the country,” the president said.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a conference call with reporters this morning that she was looking forward to working with Democrats on the NCLB reauthorization and on higher education policy.

She said that “bipartisanship is an asset in education policy” and that the No Child Left Behind law “has been and continues to be a bipartisan effort. That is the style both committees have worked in throughout the process.”

She added that “higher education is very much a shared priority for both parties. … I’m very much looking forward to the next two years. I’m glad to be at the Department of Education at this time.”

Few Changes on Education Panels

While Democrats made significant gains in the House by defeating at least 28 incumbents Nov. 7, their victories did not extend to the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Of the 24 Republican members of the panel seeking re-election, none appears to have lost his or her race.

But two Republicans on the House appropriations subcommittee that handles federal education funding lost their re-election bids. Reps. Anne M. Northup of Kentucky and Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania both lost to Democratic challengers.

Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican, lost his seat to Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Mr. DeWine is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding.

The Democratic Party
Republican National Committee
National Public Radio
Multimedia: The New York Times
Roll Call
Multimedia: The Washington Post
Multimedia: Guardian (U.K.)

In a closely watched race that focused on the No Child Left Behind law more than most contests, incumbent Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican, beat Diane Farrell, a Democrat, by 2 percentage points in Connnecticut’s 4th District. Ms. Farrell had repeatedly called the federal school law “too punitive”, although she stopped short of calling for its repeal. Mr. Shays continued to support the measure, but said he would favor more flexibility for states in assessing English-language learners and special education students during its reauthorization, scheduled for next year.

Mr. Shays is not a member a House panel that sets education policy or appropriations, but the race was profiled by Education Week this fall as one of three House contests in the state where Democratic challengers questioned their opponents’ support of the federal education law. (“No Child Left Behind on the Campaign Trail,” Oct. 25, 2006.)

In another Connecticut race, current state senator Sen. Chris Murphy defeated Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, who supported the NCLB law and had pledged to continue to work with school officials on its implementation. On his campaign Web site, Mr. Murphy had called the law “a crippling unfunded mandate.”

In the closely watched Senate race in Connecticut, incumbent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Democrat who lost the state’s primary and ran as an Independent, defeated the Democratic nominee, businessman Ned Lamont. The Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, was largely considered out of contention throughout the race.

During the campaign, Mr. Lieberman, who voted in favor of the school improvement law, said he would like to re-examine the student subgroups whose achievement is a key measure of progress under the law and possibly use methods in addition to standardized testing to gauge schools’ progress. Mr. Lamont attacked the law, telling local reporters that it is “irrelevant to what is going on in the classroom.” Still, he stopped short of calling for an outright repeal.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management What the Research Says Most Schools Have Early-Warning Systems. Some Kids Are Still Getting Lost
A study finds that one such system prevented absenteeism among some students but not others.
4 min read
Illustration of a warning symbol.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde
5 min read
A team of colleagues comes to a resolution in a conceptual illustration about building bridges
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Electric Buses Hit Some Road Bumps, But They're Still Catching On
The number of electric school buses is rising—and there’s no shortage of growing pains involving funding, legal mandates, and operations.
8 min read
Yellow electric school bus plugged in at a charging station.
Thomas W Farlow/iStock/Getty
School & District Management This State Created a Retention System for Principals. Here’s Why It Worked
Missouri has deepened the support it offers to new principals through a partly federally funded, two-year mentoring program.
6 min read
Photos of principals walking in school hallway.
E+ / Getty