Congress can't seem to do much that's bipartisan these days, but a forthcoming bill on early-childhood education by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., will be a key exception.
Miller announced his intentions earlier this year to craft legislation based in part on President Barack Obama's plan to entice states to expand preschool programs to more 4-year-olds. And Hanna's spokeswoman, Renee Gamela, confirmed that he will be the co-sponsor when the bill is released. That could happen as soon as next week.
On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the panels that oversee K-12 education policy and spending, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., another big fan of education legislation, are also working on preschool legislation that's likely to be similar to Miller's. Harkin, in fact, has called preschool his number one education priority during his very last year in Congress.
But, even though all of those lawmakers are hoping for GOP support on their preschool proposals, the Obama administration's plan has a high pricetag, $75 billion over 10 years. That is a tall order for GOP lawmakers bent on reining in spending.
We will find out soon just how closely the bipartisan Miller bill follows the president's proposal. Word is that the bills may actually go beyond the president's plan and reach down to children even younger than 4. And we'll find out if the Senate was also able to find a GOP sponsor. (Advocates say that's highly unlikely.) For some more details from an early draft of the bill, check out this Huffington Post piece.
Will having at least one GOP lawmaker on the bill make a big difference for its chances? Probably not, given the congressional climate. But it certainly can't hurt. And there is plenty of bipartisan love for preschool at the state level, even if Republican governors haven't exactly been rushing to endorse the Obama plan.
For you non-inside-baseball fans: Miller, one of the original architects of the No Child Left Behind Act, obviously is one of the premier lawmakers on education. But Hanna, a moderate who easily won re-election in a swing district in the Southern Tier area of New York, has a record on the issue, too. He served on the education panel in the last Congress. During a markup of a bill to revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he fought for science tests to be required (as they are under current law).