Education Week - November 12, 2014 - (Page 15)

goVeRnMent & politics GOP Leaders in Congress Outline Education Priorities By Lauren Camera After easily capturing the number of seats they needed to take control of the U.S. Senate-and padding their majority in the House of Representatives-congressional Republicans have laid out an aggressive education policy agenda that includes overhauling the long-stalled No Child Left Behind law and the mammoth Higher Education Act. While divided government will remain, as the White House is in Democratic hands at least until President Barack Obama finishes his second term, the new political calculation in Congress will likely spur movement on education bills. Lawmakers who play major roles on the chamber's education committees were quick to outline their priorities, which also include school choice measures, funding issues, and generally scaling back the federal footprint on K-12. Thanks to wins in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and South Dakota-all tight and expensive races that in the end went to Republican candidates-the gop garnered enough seats to take leadership of the Senate. Democrats currently hold the Senate with 53 seats to Republicans' 45 (plus two independents who are aligned with the Democrats), but in the next Congress, Republicans will control at least 52 seats. In the House, Republicans extended their majority from 234 to at least 243. (At the time this article went to press, some races in both chambers had not been decided.) The flip in the Senate will result in a reconfiguring of key leadership positions. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former U.S. secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, is slated to take the reins of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The Tennessee Republican and former governor is known as a pragmatic politician, fond of working across the aisle. He'll likely be collaborating with Sen. Patty Murray, DWash., who is expected to leave her post on the Budget Committee for the top Democratic slot on the help Committee as the current chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, retires at the end of the year. At the helm of the House Education and the Workforce Committee will be a familiar face, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who easily recaptured his seat, even after being targeted by liberal hbo personality Bill Maher's "flip a district" effort. With the departure of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the committee who is retiring at the end of the year, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., is expected to fill the slot of the ranking member. NCLB Action Rep. Kline has ushered two different versions of an overhaul of the nclb law-the current edition of the nearly 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act-through the House as committee chairman during the last two Congresses. "I've been trying and trying to get No Child Left Behind replaced, ... and now I'm much more optimistic," he said in an interview. "I'm looking at every way to get it done. It's the most important [education priority] because states are struggling with the temporarywaiver system set up by the administration. We need to change the law." Rep. Kline's efforts to rewrite the law include PAGE 16 > U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., above, heads the House education committee. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is expected to take the reins of the Senate education committee under the new GOP majority in that chamber. Both are expected to push hard on No Child Left Behind Act renewal. More Than $60 Million Later, Scant Payoff for Teachers' Unions By Lauren Camera The two national teachers' unions spent big on the 2014 midterm elections in a bid to unseat Republican governors and help Democrats hang on to their majority in the U.S. Senate. But by midnight on Election Day, it was clear that their recordsetting spending on such efforts as campaign ads, marketing, and boots-on-the-ground operations had largely failed. "It was hard to see so many good people lose their seats and so many friends of public education not get the opportunity to serve," said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. "My heart is heavy." The nea spent more than $40 million, while the American Federation of Teachers spent more than $20 million. For the first time ever, a majority of their war chests went to state and local races vs. federal races. Karen White, the political director for the 3 million-member nea, blamed the outcome on a negative national mood, a result, she said, of Republican-backed state policies that curbed people's rights to vote and blocked minimum-wage increases. But President Randi Weingarten of the 1.5 million-member aft blamed the outcome squarely on the public's attitude toward President Barack Obama. "Participating in the political process is never the wrong decision," Ms. Weingarten said. "That doesn't change because this was an election that turned into a national referendum on the president." Governor's Races The defeats in races backed by the unions were most notable at the gubernatorial level, where the aft and the nea spent millions of dollars attempting to oust Republicans elected in the 2010 midterm elections during the previous gop wave. During their tenure, members of that class of governors have cut education aid and rolled back bargaining rights of teachers' unions. The nea Advocacy Fund, the union's super-pac, gave $2.9 million through the end of September to the Democratic Governors Association, hoping to affect contests in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, to name a few. In addition to that spending, the nea super-pac also pushed $200,000 to Michigan for All in an effort to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who ultimately overcame a challenge from Democrat Mark Schauer. The nea's political-spending arm also unleashed a significant ground operation in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker eventually beat back Democratic challenger Mary Burke. In that race, the union's state affiliate handed out more than 40,000 candidate-biography fliers, mailed side-by-side candidate comparisons to 45,000 Wisconsin households, and organized a 15,000-member phone bank. It also sent early absenteeballot request forms, including a postage-paid envelope, to 15,000 members considered "drop-off" voters, those who tend not to vote in nonpresidential elections. And in Florida, the aft gave $500,000 to the Charlie Crist for Florida organization, backing the former governor, a Republican-turned-Democrat who lost his battle to unseat the gop incumbent, Gov. Rick Scott. The one gubernatorial victory for the unions occurred in Pennsylvania, where embattled Republican Gov. Tom Corbett lost handily to Democratic challenger Tom Wolf. In that race, the nea Advocacy Fund directed $580,000 to PA Families First, whose mission was to oust Gov. Corbett, while the aft's political action committee gave $450,000 to the Tom Wolf for Governor organization. "Where the results were based on local issues, as in Pennsylvania, the outcome was different," Ms. Weingarten said. Federal Races The political-spending arms of teachers' unions also poured millions of dollars into federal races in a failed attempt to help Democrats keep their majority in the Senate. The aft, for its part, directed more than $1 million to the Senate Majority pac, whose main goal was to protect the Democrats' stronghold. But through the course of the evening, Democrats in states including Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, and South Dakota fell to Republicans. In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan was overtaken by the Republican challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, in the country's most expensive race. The nea's super-pac directed $250,000 to North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools in an effort to help Sen. Hagan, and $3.6 million to Waterfront Strategies, a media-buying firm that used the money, in part, for TV ads opposing Mr. Tillis. And in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall fell to Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, a race that the nea poured significant funds into during the last few months of the election cycle. Its super-pac put $200,000 into a Spanish-language TV ad buy that ran for two weeks in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets. The spot was designed to target Hispanic and other Spanish-speaking voters and was part of a larger effort led by a coalition of political action committees that included the seiu, the Senate Majority pac, and People for the American Way. They collectively spent more than $1 million backing Sen. Udall through the Nov. 4 election. EDUCATION WEEK | November 12, 2014 | | 15 Wade Payne/AP Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/AP 2014 ELECTION

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 12, 2014

Education Week - November 12, 2014
Republicans Enhance State-Level Advantage
Broad Poverty Index Gives Fuller Picture Of Stressed Schools
Chromebooks Gaining Popularity in Districts
Key Obama Priorities Facing Lack of Allies
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study: Close Screening Process Can Improve Teacher Hires
Study Finds Few Payoffs in Short-Term Career Certificates
Blogs of the Week
Chromebooks Ascend in K-12 Market to Challenge iPads
Perceived Threat to Net Neutrality Sparks Furor
GOP Leaders in Congress Outline Education Priorities
More Than $60 Million Later, Scant Payoff for Teachers’ Unions
California Chief’s Win a Bright Spot For Teachers’ Unions
Election 2014 Results
Blogs of the Week
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Collaboration Takes Two
FATIMA GOSS GRAVES: Overlooked and in Need: Black Female Students
JOE FELDMAN: Grading Standards Can Elevate Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
APRIL BO WANG: What About Helping Rural Schools?

Education Week - November 12, 2014