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Key K-12 Ally of Obama in Senate Beats Tea-Party Challenger

The results of the hottest edu-race in the country are in: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., one of the Obama administration's go-to guys on K-12 policy, beat back a challenge from Ken Buck, a tea-party-backed attorney who has said he favors getting rid of the U.S. Department of Education.

Bennet, the former Denver schools chief, and the reported runner-up for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's job, helped thwart an effort cut Race to the Top and other key education redesign programs to pay for legislation to prevent teacher layoffs. And he's introduced measures aimed at school turnarounds, including a bill that would help train principals to work in struggling schools.

An interesting thing about the Bennet race that we've pointed out before, but that's worth thinking about again, now that he's headed back to Congress: The National Education Association put muscle and money behind this pro-charter school, pro-merit-pay Democrat.

Maybe the union helped Bennet because its leaders think he's more likely to support spending on K-12. Or maybe NEA wanted to see the Senate stay in Democratic hands, and the Bennet race was key to that goal, GOP observers suggested to me.

But Kim Anderson, the NEA's director of government relations, said the union believes that Bennet will "play a key role in helping to shape the next ... reauthorization" of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And NEA appreciates that he's been "quite vocal about the need to elevate the profession of teaching," including providing teachers with professional development and support.

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