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Kline: Voluntary Standards OK, But Federal Standards Aren't

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee—one of the key lawmakers the administration is trying to court in its push to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with bipartisan support—said he's withholding judgement on the administration's proposal to make Title I funding contingent on states adopting college- and career-ready standards.

"We'll see what that means" once more details are worked out, Kline told reporters yesterday. "In all of these cases, where we often get into a rub, is [who is setting the standards]. If the United States Department of Education is the one setting those standards ... then, clearly we have some concerns. ... If we came forward with national standards, you'd have a rebellion" among House Republicans.

But Kline said he supports the notion of states voluntarily working together on more rigorous, common standards.

Kline also shared a list of Republican principles on K-12 education, put together by GOP committee members and approved by the Republican Caucus. They are very broad.

Most notably, Republicans want to "restore local control," which would mean allowing states and districts to set curriculum, "testing systems," and academic standards. But Kline stopped short of saying the administration's recent Title I proposal would violate that principle, reiterating that he's waiting for details.

The GOP principles also call for "empowering parents" to play a greater role in selecting their children's "learning environment." And they say that Congress should let "teachers teach", which would mean removing "onerous federal requirements" to allow teachers and schools greater operating autonomy. The principles also call for "protecting taxpayers," meaning the feds should eliminate programs that don't work.

Beyond that, Kline offered few policy specifics, explaining he doesn't want to get ahead of what has been a broad, bipartisan processs so far on ESEA reauthorization involving House, Senate, and administration leaders.

"I want to underscore my support for the process, the way it has started out," he said. "And I don't think it's helpful for either [Republicans or Democrats] to get dug in too early."

It sounds like even though the administration has put out some ESEA proposals, discussions in Congress are still somewhat in the preliminary stages. I'm sure that will change once lawmakers have held more hearings on the issue, and figured out what they want to do about this.

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