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Senate Education Committee Signs Rookie Free Agent, Loses ESSA Veteran

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 14, 2018 2 min read
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A senator-elect from Nevada will be joining the Senate committee that oversees education policy, but the panel will be losing a Democrat who helped craft the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat who beat GOP Sen. Dean Heller in the midterms, will join the committee at the start of the next Congress. And Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will leave the panel. With Bennet’s departure and Rosen’s arrival, the majority of Senate Democrats on the committee will be women. They will also be led by a woman, ranking member Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state.

Bennet was serving as the superintendent of Denver public schools before Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him to the Senate to replace Ken Salazar in 2009. He’s made his presence felt on several education issues.

Early in his Senate tenure, he worked across the partisan divide with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to try to cut back on red tape districts face when it comes to federal and state regulations. He also backed shifts in school accountability that would have mirrored states’ actions in Obama-era waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, and at times was critical about the federal role in education in general. In fact, he was considered a close ally of the Obama administration on K-12 issues, and wrote legislation about school turnarounds that would have created a new leadership academy. He also tried and failed to change federal law so that districts would have to show salary equity across schools before tapping federal Title I cash.

He was also active in unsuccessful efforts to reauthorize federal education law in the years leading up to passage of ESSA. When ESSA did pass in 2015, he called the new law “a great relief” for educators, and praised the relief he said it provided from previous federal mandates. He also worked on portions of the bill dealing with charter schools, the weighted student funding pilot, and rural education.

Bennet was also a big supporter of the creation of the Education Innovation and Research fund that ESSA created, along with retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Meanwhile, Rosen is a fan of STEM education, and she’s backed legislation in the House to prioritize learning science, technology, engineering, and math. She’s also focused on ensuring young girls are encouraged to pursue education in those fields.

We haven’t seen any news about Republicans senators joining or leaving the committee next Congress, but we’ve reached out to committee staff and will update this post if we hear back. Republicans, of course, scored a net gain of three Senate seats in the midterms; they’ll hold a 53-47 edge in the overall partisan breakdown.

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