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Every Student Succeeds Act

How Elections Will Impact Congressional Education Committees

By Andrew Ujifusa — April 27, 2016 2 min read

Aside from some hearings and the confirmation of Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., Congress has not been particularly busy on the K-12 front since it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act late last year. But there are congressional elections this year, and some of them could have a notable impact on the two committees that deal with K-12 policy.

Let’s look at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee first.

• There are eight senators on the committee whose seats are up this year and are seeking re-election: Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo,; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Lisa. Murkowski, R-Alaska; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Tim Scott, R-S.C. Murray is the ranking member of the committee. Another member is retiring: Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. CORRECTION: I initially listed Isakson as retiring, but in fact he is seeking re-election this year .

• Probably the most-endangered member of the Senate HELP committee is Kirk, who is facing a general election fight with another member of the Illinois congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics currently says the Duckworth-Kirk race “leans Democratic.” However, the Cook Political Report says the race is a toss-up. Kirk is a fan of charter schools, although he wasn’t particularly active publicly in debates about ESSA before it passed Congress.

• Bennet’s seat is rated “likely” to stay Democratic, although there’s a relatively large number of Republicans interested in getting their party’s nomination to oppose him.

• All of the other seats held by HELP members are rated safe bets to stay with the party that currently holds them, according to the Center for Politics. That includes the seats being vacated by Isakson and Mikulski.

Now let’s turn to the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the House of Representatives.

• You might already know that committee chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is retiring this year. The Republican most-often mentioned as his successor to lead the committee, assuming that the GOP continues to control the House of Representatives, is Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.. And there isn’t really a whole lot of scuttlebutt connecting anyone else strongly to the job on the Republican side.

• However, Kline’s seat in Minnesota’s second congressional district is rated as a toss-up by the Center for Politics, as are the seats now held by committee members Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Rep. Joseph Heck, R-Nev. (Heck is running to replace Democratic Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who’s retiring.)

• In slightly safer territory for the GOP, the seat held by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Minn., is rated as “leans” Republican.

• Meanwhile, the seats now held by committee members Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., are rated to “likely” remain Republican. The Cook Report puts identical ratings on the six seats held by Bishop, Curbelo, Heck, Kline, Stefanik, and Walberg.

• In addition, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, is retiring from Congress.

File photo: U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks during an interview at his office in Chicago. Kirk, a member of the Senate HELP Committee, is facing a tough re-election battle against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)


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