Kline Takes Top GOP Spot on House Education Panel

Published September 1, 2009

A change in a congressional committee’s Republican Party leadership signals a commitment to returning authority over education to states and school districts.

In June, U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) became the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, replacing U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), who left to become the ranking Republican member on the House Armed Services Committee. A retired Marine Corps colonel elected to Congress in 2002, Kline became a member of the Education and Labor Committee in 2003 and also serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

Kline says his priorities for education will center on funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), increasing local control of schools, and providing flexibility to states and school districts.

“My philosophy about education stems from my belief that parents, principals, and local leaders know what’s best for our schools—not Washington bureaucrats,” Kline said. “We have too many federal programs and too much federal red tape, and it’s time for that to change.”

Special Advocate

Throughout his congressional career, Kline has advocated for special-needs students.

“My first goal for education has always been to ensure the federal government is paying its fair share of special-education costs. Until that goal is met, our schools will constantly be struggling to provide services and comply with layer upon layer of federal, state, and local requirements,” Kline said. “We can meet the goal of fully funding special education by prioritizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in the annual spending bills and rejecting cumbersome new mandates and costly new programs.”

Kline’s rise to the top Republican position on the committee is unique in that he did not arrive in Congress until 2002, meaning he did not vote on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed earlier that year. It is clear the new ranking member sees room for reform.

“As we work to fulfill our IDEA funding obligations, I’d also like to focus on reforming the No Child Left Behind Act. We need to remember that education is a right and a responsibility that belongs to states and local communities, and the federal government should be as unobtrusive as possible,” Kline said. “Of course there is an obligation to protect taxpayers and ensure the money we invest is spent wisely, but flexibility and local control must remain our guiding principles.”

Revamping NCLB

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), a senior member of the committee, expressed his desire to work with Kline on revamping NCLB.

“I congratulate Rep. Kline on his new position, and I look forward to working with him on reforming No Child Left Behind to ensure that decisions concerning education are the responsibility of states and communities, and not faceless bureaucrats in Washington,” Hoekstra said. “I want to eliminate federal intervention into K-12 education.

“No Child Left Behind is just one of the many issues related to education and the workforce that the committee will need to address, and we will do our best to promote individual freedom, choice, and accountability in all of them,” Hoekstra concluded.

Lindsey Burke ([email protected]) is a research assistant in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.