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New Ed Bill Would Not Have Happened Without Kline Retirement

Category: John Kline
Posted: 12/11/15 13:38

by Dave Mindeman

Congressman John Kline is getting kudos from various quarters over passage of the new education bill that replaces No Child Left Behind. And I am not going to disagree with most of that. Kline played an important part.

But I would also postulate that this bill would never have passed if John Kline was going to run for re-election.

The House version (Kline's version) of this bill passed...but without a single Democratic vote. The Senate bill had to forge more compromise with the Democrats in order to avoid a filibuster, so it passed with a much more bipartisan vote.

In late August, the conference committee began to deliberate the final bill and in early September, Congressman Kline announces his retirement.

Looking at the future, if Kline had run and won again, he would not have been the Chair of the Education and Workforce Committee. That position is term limited and Kline got a special waiver to keep the job for this term. So, Kline must have decided that this bill was going to be his legacy...it became important to him that it pass. And the only way it could pass was for a broad compromise to occur. And, in the past, compromise has not been one of Kline's strong suits.

Kline has always been criticized by the Minnesota version of the Tea Party...and, of course, any education compromises would subject him to more of that criticism. But with his retirement announcement, he was free from the partisan pressure that surrounds this GOP leadership via the Tea Party elements. And that also allowed the conference committee to incorporate a number of Senate bill compromises.

Core principles on both sides stayed in place. The bill is definitely an improvement over the old NCLB. It is not perfect, but it is also not going to be a large burden for education innovators. Kline got his reduction in Federal oversight, but Democrats got mandatory funding thresholds and some solid early education funding.

Kline gets his legacy and leaves Congress on a high note.

And we get an education bill that President Obama called "a Christmas miracle".

But I truly believe that all of this was possible only because John Kline decided it was time to retire.

That announcement appears to have done more for American education than the entire remainder of John Kline's career.

So be it. We shall take it.
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