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As He Mulls Return to Washington, Here’s Former Sen. Evan Bayh’s K-12 Record

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 12, 2016 2 min read
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In a move that could help tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate to the Democrats next year, former Democratic Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh is expected to campaign for a Senate seat representing the Hoosier State, the Associated Press reported Monday. The seat is currently held by GOP Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring after this session of Congress. If Bayh officially re-enters the race, and if he wins in November, here are a few tidbits for you based on his previous K-12 record in Congress.

Bayh, who left the Senate in 2011, joined a fight to help save Race to the Top, the federal competitive-grant program that was one of the early, signature education initiatives from President Barack Obama’s administration. Back in July 2010, for example, he joined 12 of his then-colleagues in the Senate in opposing budget cuts that would have stripped money out of Race to the Top and other administration priorities.

The cuts approved by the House of Representatives and opposed by Bayh and fellow senators aimed to eliminate $800 million in federal spending—$500 million would have come from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, $200 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund (which backed teacher pay-for-performance programs), and $100 million from the charter school program. He was an ally of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., during this budget fight, in which Race to the Top funding ultimately prevailed.

Based on this record, it’s fair to guess that Bayh would fight against proposed K-12 cuts in future sessions of Congress—especially if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for whom Bayh was a top surrogate during her 2008 presidential run, becomes the next president and gets into scraps with a GOP-controlled House of Representatives about the budget. But it’s unclear if Bayh feels as strongly about Race to the Top as he did six years ago—after all, the program’s overall popularity has declined.

And back in 2009, following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a longtime K-12 policy leader, Bayh was mentioned a senator who could step in and fill the void on education issues. Kennedy’s death came at a time when reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was on people’s minds. (Ultimately, of course, it took another six years for ESEA to be reauthorized.)

Photo: In this photo taken May 1, 2016, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh speaks in Indianapolis. Bayh is expected to make another run for Senate in Indiana, Democratic officials said Monday, July 11, 2016, a development that would dramatically improve the party’s chances to win back the vacant seat, and Senate control along with it. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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