On Thursday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requesting additional information about the department’s recent proposal to grant conditional waivers to states and schools.
In the letter, Chairman Kline and Rep. Hunter state:
While greater flexibility in our education system is urgently needed, the Department’s proposal is cause for concern. Issuing new demands in exchange for relief could result in greater regulations and confusion for schools and less transparency for parents. Additionally, the proposal raises questions about the Department’s legal authority to grant conditional waivers in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress.
A series of recent reports outline Chairman Kline’s concerns about the Department’s waiver proposal, and highlight the committee’s ongoing efforts to reform the nation’s failing education system:
Brushing off criticism that Congress is moving too slowly on education reform, a key House committee chairman said Thursday that he believes he can push a package of five reform bills through the House this year and end the “draconian” approach of the expiring No Child Left Behind Act.
“We are moving,” Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, told a small group of reporters in a briefing. “We’re going to [move bills] at the pace that I can move them.”
In a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration, the Republican chairman of the House education committee on Thursday challenged plans by the education secretary to override provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, and he said he would use a House rewrite of it this year to rein in the secretary’s influence on America’s schools.
Responding to Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s promise to grant states waivers to the education law’s most onerous provisions if Congress failed to rewrite it, the committee chairman, Representative John Kline of Minnesota, sent Mr. Duncan a letter on Thursday demanding that he explain by July 1 the legal authority that he believed he had to issue the waivers.
The Republican chair of the House education committee said Thursday he won't rush into a revamp of No Child Left Behind and challenged the Obama administration's suggestion that states be allowed to waive parts of the law.
In a news conference, Rep. John Kline responded to Education Secretary Arne Duncan's assertion last week that he would waive some requirements of the law for states that adopt changes he has championed, such as linking teacher evaluations to student achievement and overhauling the lowest-performing schools. Mr. Duncan wants the changes made before the new school year.
Mr. Kline said, "We can't be driven in the House or the Senate by [Mr. Duncan] or by the president's deadline." Mr. Kline questioned Mr. Duncan's legal authority to tie waivers to policy changes not authorized by Congress and sent him a letter Thursday seeking more clarity on the issue. "He is not the nation's superintendent," Mr. Kline told reporters.
Kline pushed back on the public perception that the House has been slow to move forward with legislation.
“Despite what you have heard about nothing moving, we are moving,” Kline said. “We are moving this legislation; we are bringing it into the committee; we are in discussions with leadership about when this might get to the floor of the House.”
He said his committee intends to push a reauthorization effort through the House in the form of five bills that address education spending, charter schools, funding flexibility, teacher standards and accountability. He said he expects the final floor votes on all the legislation to be finished “sometime in the fall,” although he declined to be more specific about the time period.
“We can’t be driven, in the House or the Senate, by a Cabinet secretary or even the president’s deadline,” Kline said. “Does not work.”
Kline took umbrage at the suggestion that Congress, specifically his committee, has somehow been dragging its feet on reauthorization. More than half the GOP lawmakers on the committee were brand new at the start of the year, he said.
And even though these are high-flying folks (doctors, lawyers, former state lawmakers), many of them simply don't have an extensive education policy background and needed to be brought up to speed on the NCLB law, he explained.
Kline said he doesn't want to be held to a specific timeline and then end up writing "bad legislation." Given the need to get the new lawmakers up to speed, he doesn't think he could move the bills any faster.
And the committee hasn't been sitting on its hands, Kline stressed.
"We are moving, despite what you [may have] heard," he said.
Kline touted the bipartisan charter legislation the committee approved yesterday, as well as the bill cutting more than 40 smaller, more targeted programs out of the Education Department.