Federal Federal File

Naming Rights

By Alyson Klein — November 14, 2006 1 min read
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As the Democrats prepare to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the Republican revolution of 1994, they have an important decision to make: what to call the House committee that deals with education and employment issues.

Rep. George Miller of California is the ranking Democrat on what is now the Education and the Workforce Committee. He is widely expected to become the chairman of the same panel when the Democrats formally take over in January, and to have the key role in deciding what the panel will be called.

Before the Republicans took over the House after the midterm elections 12 years ago, the panel was called the Education and Labor Committee. But that name did not sit well with newly ascendant House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s revolutionaries, said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington-based lobbying organization.

He said the older name, which had been in place since 1947, had a “connotation of labor groups, labor unions”—traditionally Democratic Party constituencies.

The new GOP leaders wanted to call the panel the Economic Opportunity Committee. The committee’s incoming chairman, then-Rep. Bill Goodling, a former Pennsylvania teacher and schools superintendent, persuaded them to add “and Educational” to that name to reflect the panel’s role in overseeing federal education policy.

But the resulting name—the Economic and Educational Opportunity Committee—turned out to be a tongue-twister. Plus, its initials—EEOC—were identical to those of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency many Republicans associated with racial and gender preferences in the workplace. So Rep. Goodling came up with the Education and the Workforce Committee, which he said was “easier to say.” It’s had that name since 1997.

It’s unclear whether the committee will revert to the pre-Republican-majority “Education and Labor” name, Mr. Kealy said.

Mr. Miller said last week that he planned to seek the chairmanship. A spokeswoman for Rep. Miller did not return a phone call asking about potential name changes.

Mr. Kealy said Democrats might go for something “a little more current and jazzier” than Education and Labor. “Maybe something with ‘competitiveness,’ ” he suggested.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2006 edition of Education Week

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