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Rep. Kline Sketches Out ESEA Game Plan

By Alyson Klein — May 11, 2011 2 min read
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Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, laid out his summer game plan for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—which involves breaking the bill into bite-size pieces—in a recent speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.

Kline explained that his panel has two bills in the works that deal with pieces of the ESEA law. (More on those bills in the works here.)

One would eliminate education programs that are deemed duplicative or ineffective. Kline realizes that he may have a partisan battle on his hands with that one, but he also said he expected that most of his fellow House Republicans would find much to like in the legislation.

“This will be a partisan fight I’m sure,” Kline said. “There’s gonna be a fight because everyone is willing to eliminate or consolidate a program or two. ... We’re going to take a little bit bigger step than that. We just have programs that we don’t need out there.”

He admits he’ll get some pushback from champions of individual programs. “Every one of those programs has a mom or a dad,” he said, although he noted that in some cases, programs were supported by lawmakers who are no longer in Congress.

Kline also sketched out the outlines of a flexibility bill, which is also under discussion right now.

“Schools are enormously frustrated that they can’t move money,” Kline said. “They need flexibility in funding.”

He said that he’s aiming to mark up the program-elimination bill at the end of the month, and the flexibility bill in June.

He added that the committee would also be dealing with accountability, the issue at the heart of ESEA, sometime in early fall. Kline wasn’t as specific about what an accountability bill would look like, but he did touch on his overall philosophy on the issue.

He said lawmakers are asking themselves the question of what exactly schools should be accountable for, and to whom.

“I think many of us would say maybe you don’t need to be accountable to the Secretary of Education,” he said. “Maybe you oughta be accountable to the local community, to parents” school boards, and states.

Kline also continued to sound the note of bipartisanship that has been the hallmark of ESEA discussions so far. He said that he’s found much common ground with reform-minded Democrats, such as former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who he called a “Democrat’s Democrat.”

It’s an open question whether the warm bipartisan feelings will continue after we see legislation (from Kline, and from the Senate.)

Want more? You can check out Kline’s full Heritage speech, which includes some thoughts on teacher tenure. And check out his Indianapolis Star op-ed on the need for funding flexibility.

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