It doesn’t happen every day, but we have some breaking education news on Capitol Hill today. Rep. Buck McKeon of California has been named the new ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. For those who haven’t worked on the Hill or drunk the Kool-Aid, this is a huge deal, particularly as we are dealing with troop expansions in Afghanistan, withdrawals in Iraq, and future commitments we can never foresee. McKeon will now be working with Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri on issues of military personnel, armed services support, terrorism, and a host of other issues related to the protection of our nation and security around the globe.
So how does this affect our little ole education world? Unfortunately, the move means that McKeon must now give up his position as the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor. After all of his work on higher education issues, cleaning up in the aftermath No Child Left Behind, and the advocacy of greater accountability and quality in our public schools, McKeon will pass the top Republican education chair to a new voice, likely Tom Petri of Wisconsin or Mike Castle of Delaware. The full story can be found here, courtesy of The Hill.
Even though Eduflack only worked for the Dems on Capitol Hill, I’ve had a soft spot for McKeon since launching this blog a few years ago. His staff was one of the first congressional staffs to ensure that I was getting information and updates regarding what was happening on the committee, and this was after he lost his gavel following the 2006 elections. So I appreciated that he (or his staff) understood the need for continued communications to a wide range of stakeholders.
I also appreciated the stances he took, even on “unpopular” issues. To this day, I still think the Miller/McKeon version of NCLB reauthorization may end up the law of the land. Last year, I even advocated for McKeon as a potential EdSec candidate. Congressman McKeon worked hard on education issues, doing what he believes was best for improving our schools and boosting student achievement across the learning continuum. That commitment will likely transfer into a new commitment to our men and women in uniform. That’s a win for the Armed Services Committee and for the nation.
So what does this mean for the House Education Committee? Chairman Miller is still ruling the roost, and nothing is going to change that (and his staff has gotten even better and more sophisticated at sharing information and keeping the blogosphere apprised of Committee doings). Clearly it is a signal that Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization is not on the immediate horizon. But it also offers a little glimmer of what is possible. If Congressman Castle can rise to the top slot, he and Chairman Miller could do a lot of good for our public schools, working on improvement efforts in a bipartisan fashion. It may even be enough to make national standards and such a reality. Now wouldn’t that be something.