Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, Chairman of the House education committee, and his staff have been spending a lot of time educating members about what his No Child Left Behind Act rewrite bill would—and wouldn’t—do, and they hope that with the air cleared, leadership will reschedule the bill for a vote in the coming weeks.
“My firm hope is that when we get back from the Easter break we will be able to pick it back up,” Kline said Tuesday morning to a group of state schools chiefs during the Council for Chief State School Officer’s annual legislative conference.
Nearly a month has passed since leadership pulled Kline’s proposal to overhaul the federal K-12 law from the floor as Republican support for the measure waned amid a separate debate over how to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“I thought it would sail through,” said Kline. “It didn’t. Yet.”
Kline called the initial collapse of support for his Republican-backed bill “the perfect storm,” and talked at length about the anti-Common Core State Standards blog post that played a role in diminishing Republican support for the bill.
“I now know what the term ‘going viral’ means,” Kline said. “There was a little blog from somebody who had a lot of misinformation, who put that misinformation out, and it went viral.”
At one point, Kline said, his colleagues approached him to say they couldn’t support his bill because it enshrines the common core. As the chairman later clarified, nothing could be farther from the truth.
“The entire leadership team was diverted from a really excellent piece of legislation,” Kline said. “We simply stopped where we were in considering the [bill]. All the debate was complete. So now it’s sitting there.”
Even with the chairman’s focus these last few weeks on member education, the bill is not a slam-dunk.
Kline still faces a faction of his caucus—backed by powerful conservative lobbying groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action—that would prefer the bill to be even more conservative. And the measure is now competing with a more-clogged congressional calendar, which is currently putting a priority on the fiscal 2016 budget and an annual legislative fix needed to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Those two annual legislative priorities tend to sap lawmakers’ time and energy, Kline said, and he urged the room of state chiefs to prod their members of Congress to revisit the NCLB overhaul.
“It’s still a fairly close vote, so if any of you have friends and contacts in the House, it would be good if you told them to help to move this process along,” he said.
Kline added that should the House move on the NCLB rewrite, he would then turn his attention to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act followed by child nutrition programs.