The big partisan education-legislation logjam seems to be breaking, at least a little bit, for more targeted bills. The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to consider not one, but two bipartisan education bills this week.
One piece of legislation would seek to make it easier for high-quality charter school operators to proliferate, while the other is aimed at making federal K-12 research more relevant to educators in the field. Both bills sailed through the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The research bill, a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, was approved unanimously with almost no discussion. And the charter school legislation was approved 36 to 3, with only a few Democrats dissenting. The House approved a similar bill with broad bipartisan support in 2011.
The research bill is scheduled for the "suspension calendar," which is generally reserved for non-controversial, low-profile bills with broad, bipartisan support. The bill could be approved Thursday.
School choice is becoming a signature issue for Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House Majority Leader, who sets the floor schedule. So even though the charter measure is also likely to pass amid lots of cross-aisle fist-bumping, it's also likely to get a much glitzier rollout, with lots of floor speeches about the power of charters to help disadvantaged kids. Debate is also expected to begin Thursday and final passage could happen Friday.
UPDATE: The National Education Association, a 3 million member union, is glad to see that the charter school bill includes provisions such as beefed-up accountability for charter school authorizers, but wishes the bill had additional language aimed at boosting transparency for charter schools (such as requiring charters to conduct open meetings.) Read the union's letter to House lawmakers here.