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Sen. Tom Harkin to Chair the Education Committee

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It's official! Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa is going to be the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Comittee. As we've said before, this puts Harkin, who already has control of the Senate subcommittee that oversees education spending, in a very powerful position.

He's now the go-to guy in the Senate on both money and policy for K-12 schools, just as the reauthorizations of No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are likely to get going.

So what will this mean? Mandatory full funding of special education may actually become a reality, for one. And Harkin will almost certainly push for a federal school facilities program.

And he may give the administration some push back on K-12 issues.

Earlier today, Michele spoke with Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. Hess said he sees Harkin as “more of a traditional Democrat on education issues” than Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and an author of the NCLB law.

“Assuming that the administration is interested in promoting Race to the Top-style priorities through the [NCLB] reauthorization, Harkin could be trickier for them,” Mr. Hess said

As chairman, Harkin may provide a needed check on the administration’s agenda, Hess said. “We need more speed bumps, and Harkin is certainty more likely to be a speed bump than Dodd” would have been.

Much more to come, so check back at Edweek.org often.

1 Comment

OK, I was wrong in my previous guess -- but I'm quite happy, in fact, to say so. Harkin is not just great for schools but also for health care and labor, without Dodd's potential electoral implications. Meanwhile Dodd gets to focus on banking and financial reforms, a key component of righting the nation's economy and restoring a measure of economic fairness, which should help his reelection prospects as well.

Happy to have been wrong!

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