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House to Hold First ESEA Hearing Next Week

Congress Geeks, clear your calendars!

Next Thursday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is planning to hold the very first hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since the House of Representatives flipped to GOP control and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., became the committee chairman.

The title of the hearing is pretty expansive. It's called Education in the Nation: Examining the Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Classrooms. The hearing will give members a broad overview of the issues facing K-12 schools, including the federal role in education policy, a spokesman for the panel told me. No word on witnesses just yet, though.

The hearing is important for two reasons:

1) It signals that the House committee is starting the process of moving on ESEA. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll finish the bill this year, but they are rolling up their sleeves early.

2) It will give K-12 folks a chance to get a sense of where the new members, many of whom are freshmen, stand on the current version of the law, the nine-year-old No Child Left Behind Act. Watch for what they say on issues like testing, teacher effectiveness, spending, and strategies to turn around low-performing schools. And listen for their views on the Obama's administration's signature K-12 initiative, Race to the Top.

Kline told reporters last week that he's working on outreach with the many new members of the panel, getting them up to speed on where ESEA renewal stands right now and also figuring out where they want to take the federal role in K-12.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on the other hand, is done with hearings. They had 10 last year and are going to dive straight into writing the bill, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman, told reporters last week.

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