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Kline Talks ESEA, Common Curriculum, and Pawlenty

By Alyson Klein — May 24, 2011 2 min read
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Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., may have said last week that he doesn’t think the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education will get done before the Obama administration’s August deadline. But that doesn’t mean he’s not talking about his own plans for renewing the law.

Kline appeared on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show this morning (yes, that Bill Bennett, the one who served as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan). The House education committee chairman sketched out his plan for breaking the ESEA into smaller pieces. He said he’d like to get up to three smaller bills done over the summer, then tackle bigger issues, like accountability and teacher training, in the fall.

And he talked up the panel’s very first ESEA-related bill, which the committee will mark up tomorrow. It would eliminate 43 programs in the U.S. Department of Education, including some that lawmakers see as duplicative or not right for the federal government, and others that already have been defunded, haven’t been funded in years, or were authorized but never got money.

Having so many programs on the books, “is just too complicated and difficult to deal with,” Kline told Bennett. (More on Kline and some of the eliminated programs over at Curriculum Matters.)

Kline also talked about the administration’s signature education redesign initiative, Race to the Top. He said he’s worried that the administration is using it partly to prod states to adopt common standards. States got extra points in the education redesign competition if they were part of a coalition working toward more uniform, rigorous standards, and the department gave out an additional $350 million to help states create more uniform assessments tied to those standards.

With Race to the Top, “the federal government is starting to push a national curriculum,” Kline said. “As you know, that’s been against the law, and I think correctly so.”
UPDATE: Great analysis and information from Catherine Gewertz of Curriculum Matters fame here.

Kline also gave a shout-out to his fellow Minnesotan Republican, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has a robust record on education and recenty declared that he’s planning to run for president. Kline called Pawlenty a “really, really fine man” who has “taken on” teachers’ unions to improve learning outcomes.

And Kline gave more hints on where he stands on accountabilty. He praised the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, saying we need an “excellent tool” for student progress and comparing different states. And he said he’d like to see the continued disaggregation of student data by subgroups, such as students in special education. But he also said, “We do need some measuring stick out there, but we do not need the U.S. Secretary of Education telling us how to do the job.”

Want more? Full interview is here.