While we still don’t know where all the chips will fall once all of the votes have been counted and recounted, there are some drive-by observations we can make regarding yesterday’s results and the potential impact for education policy in 2011 and beyond.
One thing that becomes clear from yesterday’s results, folks are frustrated by how much money the federal government has spent in the past two years (dating back to President Bush’s TARP). So those thinking there are new pots of money for additional rounds of Race to the Top, i3, edujobs, or other such programs are likely to be severely disappointed. We’re back to doing more with less.
Historically, Republicans prefer to fund education research and assessment, while Democrats prefer to fund implementation. So it is fair to assume that the House Education and the Workforce Committee, under the leadership of likely new chairman John Kline (MN) will swing the pendulum back to the data.
Changes are coming to the education committees. On the Senate side, because of last night’s results, we are likely to see the GOP pick up two seats on HELP, while Dems lose two seats. And we have at least two Senate Dems, Dodd and Goodwin) who leave the Committee because they didn’t seek re-elect (and we still need to see what happens to Murray out in Washington and Bennet in Colorado). More importantly, we have two GOPers — Gregg and Roberts — who move off the Committee (and possibly a third, Murkowski, depending on write-in vote tallies in Alaska). A potential for five new Republicans on HELP in 2011. So Chairman Harkin will have major changes to deal with on a Committee that hasn’t quite been in the education game for the last year.
On the House side? Huge changes coming. Kline will be the new chairman. Rumors are already circulating that outgoing Chairman George Miller (CA) may retire rather than returning for the 112th Congress. And then we will have a slew of new Republicans added to the roster, while a bunch of Dems rotate off.
And don’t forget, the incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner (OH), was one of the key architects of NCLB, when he himself chaired the House Education and Workforce Committee.
What about the states? The map of governors is looking awfully red. Republicans picked up the chief chair in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, and others. And we are still waiting for results in Florida, Illinois, and Oregon. Among RttT states, we are seeing an awful lot of Race states with Republicans at the helm.
No doubt, changes are coming to the edu-scape. Many candidates calling for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education were elected last night. There was little talk, if any, about the role of charter schools or school choice. And the incoming majority party was swept in on promises of smaller government, reductions in spending, and a return of local control. All of these promises have very real impact on federal and state education policy.
So what now? Expect Kline to move quickly with a plan to reauthorize ESEA … and expect EdSec Duncan to jump at the opportunity. It won’t be a major change to NCLB — some improvements, some changes, but the same core framework with some accountability and flexibility returned to the states/localities at roughly a level funding level. But that may be our only true edu-shot in 2011.