Rep. John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio once known for his close ties to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, has been named the new chairman of the House education committee.
House Republican leaders tapped Mr. Boehner last week to replace Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., who retired last week after a quarter-century in Congress that was capped by a six-year term as the chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
Mr. Boehner, who at one time was the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, will now be in a position to help decide the fate of President-elect Bush’s education initiatives in the new 107th Congress.
“I’m grateful for the chance to lead the committee into a new era,” Mr. Boehner, 51, said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with my committee colleagues—Republican and Democrat alike—to make positive reforms for Americans from grade school to the golden years.”
Rep. Boehner, who has served on the education committee since his first term in Congress in 1991, said he would lead the panel to find a consensus on legislation aimed at “raising performance, and giving parents and teachers the flexibility they need to help students achieve success.” He also said he would work to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers.
Democrats on the House committee also have a new leader: Rep. George Miller of California. Mr. Miller replaces Rep. William L. Clay of Missouri, who retired last week as the committee’s ranking Democrat.
In the Senate, which is divided equally between Republicans and Democrats for the first time in more than a century, Sen. James M. Jeffords, R- Vt., will remain the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts will continue as the committee’s ranking Democrat.
Senate Democrats will likely add at least one committee member as a result of a power-sharing arrangement still being discussed at press time by Senate leaders.
Part of the ‘Gang’
House leaders chose Rep. Boehner over a more senior committee member, Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., who was also vying for the slot. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., an outspoken critic of the Department of Education, had also been competing for the position.
Unlike Mr. Goodling, a former teacher and superintendent, Mr. Boehner does not have a background in education.
“He doesn’t have the experience like Goodling, whose name was linked with education,” said Diane Shust, the manager of federal relations for the National Education Association. “Goodling will be hard to replace. A question about Mr. Boehner is how committed to education he will be. The committee has the labor issues as well.”
A former plastics and packaging executive, Mr. Boehner represents Ohio’s solidly Republican 8th Congressional District, located in the southwestern part of the state. He has had a high-profile role in his party since he entered the House, when he was part of the “Gang of Seven” freshmen who pushed for congressional reforms in the wake of the House Bank scandal.
With then-Speaker Gingrich’s backing, Rep. Boehner’s colleagues elected him chairman of the House Republican Conference in 1994. He held that No. 4 position in the House GOP hierarchy until 1999, when he was unseated by Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.
On education matters, Mr. Boehner in 1994 sponsored a measure allowing school districts to use Title I money to pay for public-school-choice programs; that measure was passed as part of that year’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization. He later introduced legislation to help students with college loans and worked to promote the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, which expanded the existing “Ed Flex” program. Under the program, states are permitted to waive regulations governing certain federal aid programs.
Mr. Boehner’s selection last week was part of a major shift in the House in which nearly every committee chairman was replaced under term limits instituted by the Republicans after they won control of the chamber in 1994. Chairmen may serve only six years.
The Republican Conference also decided last week to reject a plan to create a committee devoted strictly to education. Rep. Hoekstra had touted a proposal to strip workforce issues from the committee’s duties. Reps. Boehner and Petri favored leaving the committee’s jurisdiction as it stands.
A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2001 edition of Education Week as Boehner To Lead House Education Committee