What Do the Midterm Elections Mean for Education?
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Over the past two years, the Obama administration has captured headlines with its high-profile education agenda. From Race to the Top to Edujobs to student-loan reform, Secretary Listen to Audio


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Arne Duncan's Department of Education has had an outsized impact on America's schools and colleges. However, the 2010 midterm elections may fundamentally alter the picture. The potential for big Republican gains, the emergence of the tea party, and key changes in the membership of the education committees mean the shape of federal education policy will likely look very different in the 112th Congress.

Join us for a discussion of what the midterm elections will mean for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or No Child Left Behind), the Common Core, potential future rounds of Race to the Top, the regulation of for-profit colleges, and other pressing issues.

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WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 9, 2010--Education experts were divided on the prospects for productive, bipartisan work on education in the 112th Congress Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute. Amy Jones of the House Education and Labor Committee and Lindsay Hunsicker and Bethany Little, both of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, were confident that education could continue its legacy as a bipartisan issue, including the successful reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). However, Frederick M. Hess and Andrew P. Kelly of AEI and Joel Packer of the Committee for Education Funding had grave concerns. Hess argued that despite the Department of Education's openness to charters and merit pay, its increased role in education has made bipartisanship harder. He speculated that Congress is more likely to pass a patchwork piece of legislation that fixes the worst consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act than to reauthorize ESEA. Hunsicker argued that Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member on the HELP Committee, would not accept piecemeal legislation. The panel also discussed Congress's regulatory action in the higher education industry and the impact of state gubernatorial races on the adoption of the Common Core standards. The panel closed with bets placed on the likelihood of ESEA reauthorization--all in all, bipartisan movement is looking grim.

--JENNA SCHUETTE

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Speaker biographies


Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at AEI. In addition to his Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up,” he is the author of influential books on education including The Same Thing Over and Over (Harvard University Press, November 2010), Education Unbound (ASCD, 2010), Common Sense School Reform (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Revolution at the Margins (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), and Spinning Wheels (Brookings Institution Press, 1998), as well as the coeditor of the new volume Stretching the School Dollar (Harvard Education Press, 2010). His work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as the Teachers College Record, the Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, and National Review. He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education, and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.

Lindsay Hunsicker is the senior education policy adviser for Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Her portfolio for the committee focuses on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Head Start Act, but also includes education research, early-childhood education, and child-care issues. Before joining the committee, Ms. Hunsicker was a senior legislative assistant for Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) for six years. In that position, her portfolio included education, labor, human-services, and pension issues. Ms. Hunsicker began her work on Capitol Hill with Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

Amy Jones specializes in higher education and student-loan policy, competitiveness issues, teaching training, national service, and legal issues arising in education policy for senior ranking Republican member John Kline (R-Minn.) of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Previously, she was an attorney at Dean Blakey, where she handled matters important to the higher education community and the student-loan industry. Ms. Jones also clerked at the Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education. 

Andrew P. Kelly is a research fellow in education policy studies at AEI and a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of California–Berkeley. His research focuses on higher education policy, congressional policymaking, and political behavior. As a graduate student, Mr. Kelly was a National Science Foundation interdisciplinary training fellow and graduate-student instructor. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining in public schools, and the politics of education. His research has appeared in the Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, the Policy Studies Journal, Education Next, Education Week, Forbes, and various edited volumes. He is a coauthor of the 2009 AEI report “Diplomas and Dropouts: Which Schools Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t).”

Bethany Little is chief education counsel for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She is responsible for legislation governing early-childhood programs, elementary and secondary education, higher education, and workforce training. Before joining the committee, she was vice president for policy and federal advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education, where she was responsible for guiding the alliance’s policy work on high school reform issues, including accountability and school improvement, adolescent literacy, and college preparation. Ms. Little came to the alliance from the Children’s Defense Fund, where, as director of government relations, she managed advocacy efforts and provided policy direction. From 2001 to 2003, she worked in the office of Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as a legislative assistant focused on education, welfare, and children and family issues. Before that, she was associate director for the White House Domestic Policy Council serving as an education policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Ms. Little has also held positions at the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Excellence in Government, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. 

Joel Packer, former director of educational policy and practice at the National Education Association (NEA), is a principal at the Raben Group. Mr. Packer has successfully represented educators, state universities, and college students before Congress and the administration for more than thirty-five years. He combines messaging, coalition building, and direct advocacy on a broad range of education and budget issues. Mr. Packer’s clients include the Committee for Education Funding, where he serves as executive director; the NEA; the Los Angeles Unified School District; the Latino Elected and Appointed Officials National Education Taskforce; First Focus; and Kaplan Higher Education. He was at NEA for twenty-five years and oversaw key issues, including school readiness, standards, testing and accountability, teaching and learning conditions, educator quality, parent involvement, funding, special education, high school reform, twenty-first century skills, English Language Learners, voucher programs, and charter schools. Mr. Packer also led NEA’s policy and advocacy work on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and was the organization’s lead liaison with the U.S. Department of Education. Previously, he was an NEA lobbyist, covering issues including higher education, family and medical leave, the Brady bill, school prayer, civil rights, judicial nominations, health care, and environmental hazards in schools. He has testified numerous times before congressional committees and spoken before a broad range of organizations. Mr. Packer is quoted in the media regularly, and he has appeared on many radio talk shows. In 1993, he was deputy assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Mark Schneider is a former commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. He writes about a broad range of education issues, including charter schools, consumer choice in education, the relationship between school facilities and academic outcomes, and higher education policy. He also studies and writes about urban politics and public policy. He is the author and coauthor of numerous scholarly books and articles, including the award-winning Choosing Schools: Consumer Choice and the Quality of American Schools (Princeton University Press, 2000, with Paul Teske and Melissa Marschall). From 2000 to 2001, he was vice president of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and president of APSA’s public policy division. He is currently vice president for new education initiatives at the American Institutes for Research. Mr. Schneider’s research at AEI focuses on higher education, specifically the issue of accountability in postsecondary education.


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