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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/ 4/2010

Where Kline stands on education policy

By Valerie Strauss

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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By Valerie Strauss  | 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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"Republicans, he said, prefer local control..."

That's code for Republicans would rather devote federal monies toward policing problems around the world rather than do anything to lift the life chances of millions of poor/minority youngsters in our own inner cities. That's right. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more important to Republicans than educating kids in Harlem or Watts.

What a complete waste of our country's scant limited fiscal resources, not to mention our soldiers' lives we continue to flush into an undeserving pit.

Posted by: phoss1 | November 4, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

So far, he sounds better than Obama and Duncan

Posted by: efavorite | November 4, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse


Although I disagree about the Common Core Standards point he makes and his stance on charter schools, I do think he has a better understanding of education policy than Obama or Duncan.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 4, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

There are reasons that the feds move in to put certain limits on "local control". There was a certain county in Virginia that closed its entire public school system for years rather than follow the Federal Government's order to desegragate.
Oh, yes - the Natioanl Guard had to be called in to protect the children integrating schools in other southern states.
The extemely low graduation requirements in many states is what in part started the national standards movement. Students didn't know much after twelve years compared to many other states.

And those wonderful European countries that we are trying so hard to catch up to require natioanl exams for all to graduate. Localites are not a part of it.

Politicians continue to blow hard on subjects they know too little about but get all the media coverage to drive changes in the wrong way. Doctors and lawyers would not stand for this. Teachers wouldn't either but they don't have time or energy after ten hours a day teaching YOUR children. Public, where is your RESPECT?

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | November 4, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the Republican take over of the House won't be a total disaster after all. Aside from the charter school issue, I agree with him. I doubt we'll see full funding of IDEA, though, even though that would help tremendously in easing pressure on local property tax assessments. I hope he fights Duncan's nonsense at every turn. RttT is a sham. My district will see net $3.00 per student per year for four years once all of the new bureaucracy is put into place and paid for to oversee the "reforms." Enough for a nice box or two of #2 pencils.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | November 4, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

If he can effectively fight against RttT, I might be able to live with his desire to expand charters - it would be an acceptable trade off. Charters themselves are not bad - they're just not the panacea they are made out to be. They will do less damage, I think, than RttT. It's a shame to think in terms of trade-offs, but such is life.

I also wonder what he means by "let teachers teach." It sounds good on the surface, but who knows.

Posted by: efavorite | November 4, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse


I agree fully. RttT is one of the most misguided and poorly conceived efforts I have ever seen in educational reform.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 4, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

It was Arne Duncan (I believe) who made a rule in CPS that if a student didn't make an acceptable score on the standardized tests, they couldn't graduate from 8th grade.

As a result, many parents move their children out to the suburbs when their children reach 8th grade. Every year, the suburbs that border Chicago recieve an influx of students from CPS for this reason.

Posted by: jlp19 | November 4, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

It is so hard, when politics are in play, to know whether to agree with someone or not, especially when the term "reform" has been so thoroughly bastardized. I think one has to always look for the hidden (real) agenda, unfortunately. And then, you have to look at the individuals friends...Where there are friends in test companies, textbooks, tutoring, reading or math curriculum, educational resources, computers, etc, one has to examine the rhetoric ever so carefully.

It would be wonderful to hear a politician speak against the obvious disasterous impact of NCLB on schools, on kids, on teachers, and ultimately on society...but, also speak out to keep intact and expand on the humane and crucial previous aspects of ESEA Titles 1-8 which were created to address many of the nobler "reforms" sorely needed in 1965.

The concept of a standard curriculum or "core standards" has been in discussion heatedly since then as the 1965 enactment expressly excluded it.

Not much has changed but so much has changed....

The difference these days is how little of this is in any of our control. How horrible to be a teacher or a student in our times when you have no say on the issues that matter the most in your life, your learning, your personal growth, your happiness. In other words, in our public schools, your rights don't exist and you will not be heard or represented.

That has happened in 8 short years. So, when you worry that things will get worse....yeah....we ought to be really, really worried.

I would love to think any of our politicians would want to include the many, many educated and dedicated thinkers, experienced, learned educators and academicians in this discussion....Many of whom have serious criticisms of NCLB and RTTT. But, who do the politicians rely on for advice?? The answer is scary. Not since Paul Wellstone, who taught, has there been any clear connection to anything or anyone educational in this "reform movement."

A movement to hand this discussion and the future of public education over to Educational Leadership is long overdue. And until someone high up in political office grows the integrity to defend and engage that obvious but missing link, we will have much more of the same and worse.


Posted by: realannie | November 4, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

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