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Education Reporter

Republicans Return to Conservative Roots in Choice of Education Policy Leader
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This summer, Rep. John P. Kline of Minnesota became the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. House Republicans' selection of Kline for the role marked a turning point in the recent history of Republican approaches to education policy. Each of Kline's recent predecessors in the role voted for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Bush administration's landmark education law increasing the federal government's role in education. Kline was not yet a Congressman when NCLB passed in 2001, and is not strongly committed to the law or to its principles of federally enforced testing and accountability. "Let's back the federal government out of dictating to schools how they're going to do their business," Kline said recently. This stance is clearly counter-cultural in a House that seriously considered regulating which brands of snacks are available in school vending machines.

On NCLB, Kline said, "I'm not looking to tweak No Child Left Behind. As far as I'm concerned, we ought to go in and look at the whole thing." NCLB is widely unpopular and is overdue for reauthorization by Congress. The law's stated aim of 100% proficiency in math and reading by 2014 looks more and more ludicrous as the deadline approaches, and teachers, parents and school boards have raised a variety of other complaints against the act's provisions.

Kline opposes Democrats' efforts to increase direct government lending to college students, a tactic that free-market critics say would contribute to the inflated cost of higher education, among other problems. Kline also criticized the majority party for killing the successful Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school choice initiative that Congress created in 2003. Kline says he hopes to work with the majority to increase funding for special education and independently operated public charter schools.

According to Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation, House Republicans' selection of Kline marks "an opportunity for Republicans to return to their more conservative roots, favoring moving decisions back to the states." (Washington Post, 7-13-09)

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