It's back to school for Congress.
Today, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, held his first organizational meeting with the 113th Congress's iteration of his committee. In his opening remarks, Kline said reauthorizing No Child Left Behind will remain a "top priority." NCLB, the sweeping law that governs public K-12 education, expired in 2007.
As we've previously reported, it will be hard for Kline to push a bill to the floor that is similar enough to the Senate's approach that it can be conferenced, and eventually signed into law. And besides, the White House is unlikely to get involved -- the Education Department is in the process of implementing the waivers most states have signed up for in an attempt to ditch the huge George W. Bush law.
However, in an era of hyper-partisanship, it seems that both parties within this committee have some common ground: the desire to both renew the law and end the waivers. "It is our shared responsibility to craft thoughtful policies that will enhance state and local control, encourage innovation and flexibility, and end the administration's convoluted waivers scheme, which Ranking Member [Rep. George] Miller (D-Calif.) fittingly dubbed a 'patchwork of state systems and temporary relief.,'" Kline said, according to prepared remarks.
Kline also alluded to a possible conversation of President Barack Obama's gun control recommendations, but didn't call it that. "I also expect we will have a robust conversation in the coming weeks about ways to better protect our children in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut," he said.
Kline continued: "In previous Congresses, we have applauded the committee's ability to disagree without being disagreeable. While we managed to do so again in the last Congress, it's time we focused less on polite disagreements and more on forging commonsense agreements."
See Kline's full remarks below:
Good morning. I'm pleased to welcome our new and returning members and staff to the first meeting of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. We're here this morning to approve the committee's rules, oversight plan, and subcommittee makeup for the 113th Congress. Additionally, this meeting provides an opportunity to outline our goals and priorities for the months ahead.
With 12 million Americans still struggling to find jobs, job creation remains at the forefront of the committee's agenda. We will continue our efforts to ensure federal policies don't get in the way of employers' efforts to do what they do best: create jobs and invest in our economy.
We will also resume our work to improve the nation's job training system - helping employers find the skilled workers needed to grow their businesses and providing unemployed Americans access to important training opportunities. Additionally, we will continue to discuss the state of the nation's higher education system, and explore ways we can enhance transparency, help families better understand the college investment, and enact a long-term solution that will better align student loan interest rates with the free market.
As in the 112th Congress, reauthorizing No Child Left Behind remains a top priority. As my friend Mr. Miller recently stated, "NCLB is outdated and is restraining schools from making the kinds of innovative improvements needed to benefit students." It is our shared responsibility to craft thoughtful policies that will enhance state and local control, encourage innovation and flexibility, and end the administration's convoluted waivers scheme, which Ranking Member Miller fittingly dubbed a "patchwork of state systems and temporary relief."
I also expect we will have a robust conversation in the coming weeks about ways to better protect our children in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I look forward to working with each of you as we explore policies that will help prevent future violence in our schools.
In previous Congresses, we have applauded the committee's ability to disagree without being disagreeable. While we managed to do so again in the last Congress, it's time we focused less on polite disagreements and more on forging commonsense agreements.
This committee has jurisdiction over a number of laws in need of reauthorization, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Education Sciences Reform Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act - just to name a few. Several others, such as the Higher Education Act and provisions in federal law affecting multiemployer pension plans, are set to expire in the next few years.
We had many productive conversations last Congress about several of these laws, and it is time to finish the job. This will require hard work from this committee, and it will require compromise and leadership from our colleagues in the Senate and the White House. It is my hope that over the next two years, we can rise to the challenges we face and complete the work the American people sent us here to do.
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