Where Kline stands on education policy
The man expected to be the new chairman of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), just advanced his broad priorities for education policy in the next Congress: “reform that restores local control, empowers parents, lets teachers teach, and protects taxpayers.”
What exactly does that mean?
For a clue, we can look to this interview Kline gave last month to Dropout Nation, in which he spoke about his dislike for No Child Left Behind, his concern about the Common Core standards movement and his support for more school choice.
He said No Child is "a very large intrusion into education, into areas of education that the federal government shouldn’t be involved. This isn’t just Republican dissatisfaction. When I talk to teachers, parents, superintendents, my colleagues, everyone wants to fix No Child Left behind. There is great dissatisfaction with No Child Left Behind."
(Actually, not everybody wants to fix NCLB. Margaret Spellings, education secretary under president George W. Bush and an architect of the law, told my colleague Jay Mathews in this video that she thinks Congress should leave NCLB alone for now.)
Klein said in the interview that the adequate yearly progress provision in NCLB was too restrictive: “Where I’m from in Minnesota, that guarantees that every public school in America is failing.”
He also said he thought Congress was “irresponsible” when it gave "with no strings attached" Education Secretary Arne Duncan billions of dollars for his Race to the Top initiative, a contest that pitted states against each other for federal money to enact reforms that Duncan liked.
Kline supports some provisions in Race to the Top, including an expansion of charter schools. But he is skeptical about the Common Core standards movement, which was also promoted in Race to the Top, because, he said, it is a move toward “creating a common curriculum,” which he opposes. To date, 37 states and territories and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the K-12 standards written for math and English-language arts.
Republicans, he said, prefer local control, on which he has been working since he first joined the Education and Labor Committee in 2003, after NCLB was passed. Kline was initially willing to give NCLB a chance, but became an opponent to its prescriptive measures.
There is, of course, some tension between allowing unfettered charter school expansion and giving local districts more control, because many local public school officials don't want more charters in their areas. Kline acknowledged as much in the interview but offered no solution.
One education area in which Kline has long advocated is special education. He wants Congress to fully fund the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which was passed 35 years ago to ensure that students with disabilities would receive the same educational opportunities as other kids. Congress had promised to fund 40 percent of the costs of special education but never has.
Last year he authored this article that said Congress should fully fund programs that are already U.S. law, such as IDEA, rather than funding experiments.
In a new interview with my colleague Nick Anderson, Kline gave little significance to a call by some of the more extreme newly elected members of Congress to abolish the Education Department.
“In some ways, that’s sort of a talking point," Kline said. "There will be those who campaigned on that language. I’m not sure they always know what it means."
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| November 4, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Congress | Tags: 112th congress, IDEA, arne duncan, charter schools, congress, education committee, education policy, gop takeover, gop victory, house education and labor committee, john kline, midterm elections, nclb, no child left behind, president obama, race to the top, rep. john kline, republican victory, special ed, special education
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