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Conservative Rep. Todd Rokita Named Chairman of K-12 Panel

Rep. Todd Rokita, a conservative Republican from Indiana, has been tapped to oversee the House education subcommittee on K-12 policy.

That puts him in a powerful position for education policy—particularly if Brokedown Congress surprises everyone and somehow makes significant headway on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year.

Case in point? One of Rokita's predecessors—Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware—was a member of the "Big 8" group of lawmakers targeted by the administration back in 2009 to help move an ESEA renewal. (In fact, Castle oversaw the K-12 subcommittee for years and was able to help put a significant stamp on federal K-12 policy—he was a major author of the bill that helped create the Institute of Education Sciences, and was a lead writer of the most recent renewal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.)

But while Castle was known as a moderate, Rokita seems to have a lot more in common, politically, with conservative Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was at the helm of the subcommittee in the most recent Congress.

In fact, back in the winter of 2012, when the House education panel marked up bills to renew the ESEA law, Rokita stood out as one of the most conservative members of a very conservative bunch of lawmakers. He introduced an amendment to reduce the number of employees in the U.S. Department of Education, which was added to the bill.

What's more, he put forth—then withdrew—a game-changing provision that would have basically repealed the entire decades-old ESEA law—not just the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The legislation would have essentially allowed states to opt out of federal education programs and return the money to taxpayers.

Rokita, who as the former secretary of state in Indiana, has a lot of political experience, was elected to Congress in 2010, as part of the big, "tea party" wave. And he was seen as emblematic of his freshman class. Check out Rokita's interview with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin.

So far, Rokita hasn't sponsored any education bills. (Here's a glimpse at the ones he has put forward.) But he's co-sponsored quite a few, including a bipartisan piece of charter school legislation that passed the House and a bill to slim down the Education Department by eliminating more than 40 programs.

He's also supported the "A-Plus Act", which would allow states to opt out of federal accountability measures, and a bill to make English the official language of the United States, which could have implications for the education of English learners.

It sounds like Rokita, the father of two young children, is excited to take over the subcommittee. And he thinks the Hoosier state, which recently embraced vouchers and a host of other changes, is on the right track when it comes to ed policy.

Here's a snippet from his recent statement:

"In recent years, Indiana has helped lead the way with groundbreaking education reforms that have set an example for the rest of the nation. I'm excited to serve as chairman of the subcommittee with oversight over K-12 education, where I will have the opportunity to take what we've learned in Indiana to Washington, and also to ensure that states like Indiana have the flexibility and help they need to deliver top-quality education for students and families."

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