GOP victories could affect education funding, ed tech

The Republican majority in the House could lead to cuts in education funding, some observers fear.

Riding a wave of voter discontent about the state of the economy, Republicans drew on the support of independents and the energy of Tea Party activists to fashion a resounding victory in the House of Representatives during the Nov. 2 midterm elections, altering the balance of power in Washington, D.C., in ways that are likely to affect both federal education funding and local ed-tech programs.

Incomplete returns showed the GOP picked up at least 60 House seats—the biggest party turnover in more than 70 years—and led in four more races, far in excess of what was needed for a majority. About two dozen races remained too close to call as of press time.

Republicans also increased their strength in the Senate and quickly served notice they intend to challenge President Barack Obama with a more conservative fiscal approach.

“We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and … commit to making changes they are demanding,” Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, told cheering partisans as GOP gains mounted throughout the night.

Republican control of the House means Boehner will be the new House speaker in January, and chairmanship of the various House committees will shift to Republicans as well. That puts Minnesota Rep. John Kline in line to succeed Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., as chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor; Kline, the senior Republican member of the committee, defeated Democratic challenger Shelley Madore in Minnesota’s 2nd District.

Kline has supported an increase in federal education funding to help teach students with special needs. In a 2009 op-ed piece, he noted that the government pledged to spend up to 40 percent of the cost of special-education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—but federal IDEA spending has fallen far short of this target amount.

“Since 1975, we have never met that promise. In fact, we have never even come close,” he wrote. “Even with this year’s one-time boost in stimulus funding, which will disappear in a little more than a year, we still fall far short of our guarantee.”

Yet Kline favors fully funding IDEA before spending on any new education programs, such as initiatives that would support early childhood education, job training, and school construction that House Democrats passed last year.

“While these new programs may be beneficial, we have not seen evidence of their success,” he wrote. “Challenging economic times are not the time for new and expensive experiments that siphon funds from existing programs and impose massive, unfunded mandates on state and local school officials. Instead, we should devote our limited resources … to those programs with which schools are already required by law to comply.”

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