The start of the 112th Congress brought some changes to the leadership of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over education policy.

In the House of Representatives, the Education and Labor Committee has been renamed - it is once again the Education and the Workforce Committee. The committee will also have a new chairman, Representative John Kline (R-MN), who has served as the top ranking Republican on the panel since 2009. In a statement released in December 2010, Kline said: “My goal for the federal programs and agencies that oversee our schools and workplaces is to provide certainty and simplicity. We must ensure federal red tape does not become the enemy of innovation, and that federal mandates do not become roadblocks on the path to reform.” In the past, Kline has advocated for greater flexibility and local control in education. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who chaired the Education and Labor Committee in the 111th Congress, is expected to serve as Ranking Member.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has been named chairwoman of the panel’s Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness. Foxx is a former college professor and administrator. Although she has a light legislative footprint in the area of education, she has previously expressed criticism of the Department of Education’s handling of for-profit colleges. In a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed, Foxx expressed her interest in cutting back federal regulations in education and in reevaluating funding for the Department of Education. “…[G]overnment funding for higher education is most effective the closer the funding source is to the institutions. This is why I support focusing our efforts on state and local government and removing much of the federal red tape, mandates and funding mechanisms that hinder innovation and accountability.” The ranking member for the subcommittee has not yet been announced.

The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will be chaired by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA). Hunter, who is serving his second term in office, has little legislative history in education policy, but has expressed interest in cutting government spending.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will be chaired by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). This is the congressman’s first time as top Republican on the committee. Rehberg commented on his priorities for the subcommittee in a statement released on 7 January: “Even as federal spending went through the roof, the quality of health care and education has suffered. We need to spend tax dollars more responsibly and efficiently. We need to empower communities, not federal bureaucrats. We need to stop thinking that we can solve every problem by throwing more money at it.” House Democrats have not yet made a decision regarding the panel’s ranking member. The subcommittee was led in the last session of Congress by now retired Rep. David Obey (D-WI), who had also served as chairman of the full Appropriations Committee.

The Senate has not yet officially named the leadership for its committees. However, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is expected to be chaired again by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Harkin became the lead Democrat on the committee after the death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in 2009. Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) has served as the education committee’s ranking member since 2008. He chaired the committee from 2005-2007, when the Republicans last controlled the Senate, and played an important role in the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. Senator Harkin is also expected to continue on as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.


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