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School Choice Fan Rep. Kevin McCarthy Could Be Next Speaker

By Alyson Klein — September 29, 2015 1 min read
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So Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the Speaker of the House, former education chairman, and a lead author of the No Child Left Behind Act, is out as of the end of the month—and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will almost certainly replace him.

McCarthy doesn’t have nearly as long a resume on K-12 as Boehner did going into the job. (To be fair, very few lawmakers could.) He hasn’t sponsored or co-sponsored many education bills since joining Congress in 2007.

He’s co-signed a bill overhauling the Impact Aid program, which offers federal money to districts with a big federal presence, to help them make up for lost tax revenue, and a bill that would allow states to use existing money for technology to address cyber-bullying and protect kids from Internet predators.

And last year, he wrote an op-ed comparing school choice and ... milk choice. If one store is selling spoiled milk, customers can go to another grocery store and buy the fresh stuff, he noted. The same thing should happen with schools, he argued:

When a grocer sells bad milk, customers are free to shop at another store. If there is no other store, a new one will be opened, promising and providing fresh milk. ... The message is simple: if you’d like to be a successful grocer, sell fresh milk ... This principle—that people are free to choose among alternatives—operates in almost every aspect of our society. But imagine if this sour-milk grocery store were state-owned, the only grocer in town, and that you were barred from shopping at grocers outside the city limits. Then, imagine that laws barred any new, privately managed grocery stores from opening. In effect, you would be forced to purchase milk at a store that sells bad milk or go without milk altogether. The grocer would have a monopoly on milk. While such limitations would be ridiculous in the world of groceries, it is all too common in education. For many families trapped in failing schools, the only way to access a quality education is to leave their homes for another district or take on extreme financial burdens to cover tuition at a private school.

Interestingly, McCarthy isn’t the first GOP policymaker to use a milky metaphor in selling school choice. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, now a Republican presidential candidate made it a centerpiece of his speech on education to the GOP convention in 2012.

Another interesting tidbit: One of McCarthy’s key policy aides, Barrett Karr, was the staff director for the Education and the Workforce committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. So she clearly has some experience with K-12 issues—and might want to help her former boss get a big win on passage of a bill rewriting the NCLB law before Kline retires.

“She’s the X factor,” one source said. In fact, the source credited Karr with playing a major role in getting the bill off the House floor this summer. “There’s a reason the same bill that couldn’t pass in February made it the second time around.”

Still, many folks expect Boehner’s retirement to put the brakes on an NCLB rewrite. More here.

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