Co-authored by Jessica Seitz
With the 2014 Midterm Elections now behind us, the impact of the results and how they will affect PTA-related policy issues must be examined. With most of the election results now in (some still pending), Republicans will now control both Houses of Congress.
By adding up to 40 new Members to the House of Representatives (gaining at least 13), Republicans will have at least 246 seats, its largest majority sense World War II. In the Senate, Republicans added 10 new members (picking up 7) and will take over the majority with at least 52 members. With new leadership set to take over in January, changes are on the horizon. Specifically, in the Senate, many Republicans who served as Committee ranking members are poised to become Chairs of their respective committees. In the House, while Republicans have retained leadership, key committee assignments are likely to change. New members will arrive in Washington next week for their orientation and leadership elections for both the House and the Senate, including chairmanships.
Other key results from Tuesday night impacting the national political landscape include:
Several ballot initiatives were on the ballots across the country with mixed results. While New York and Illinois approved increased education spending, Nevada voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have imposed a 2% margin tax on businesses with more than $1 million in revenue to raise money for public schools. Washington State narrowly passed a measure that would raise spending to cut down class sizes and hire staff but in Colorado, an amendment that would have used gambling to generate funding for schools lost by a large margin. Early education continues to be on the rise across the country, as voters approved measures in Denver and Seattle to raise taxes to expand access to high-quality preschool.
The most controversial measure on the ballot this year was in Missouri. On Tuesday voters resoundingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required districts to use student test scores as a key factor in teacher hiring, compensation, advancement, and layoffs. It would also have limited teacher contracts to three years and prohibit teachers from using the collective bargaining process to make changes to the design and implementation of the evaluation system.
House and Senate Leadership and Committee Outlook for 114th Congress
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will lead the 114th Congress. From a PTA advocacy perspective, two Committees stand out: The Education and Workforce Committee in the House of Representatives and the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee in the Senate. These committees deal exclusively with many K-12 issues PTA advocates for, including Family Engagement.
In the House, the Committee on Education and Workforce lost two Republicans and five Democrats, to either election or retirement. Among the most central figures not returning to the Committee is Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA). Current Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) is expected to maintain his position with Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) slated to become the committee’s Ranking Member.
In the Senate, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions loses two Democrats, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC). With leadership in the Senate changing hands, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will become the next Chairman of the HELP Committee and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), currently the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is expected to become the Ranking Member. In a statement shortly after the election, Sen. Alexander stated:
“Yesterday Americans elected a new Senate majority determined to fix our broken system and move our country in a new direction…. Republicans in the Senate are ready to hit the ground running with proposals to….return control over our public schools to communities and classroom teachers…”
With control of both Chambers and strong statements like these, all indications point to important changes (or attempts to change) in 2015 in the area of education policy.
Matthew L. Evans is the Advocacy Coordinator at National PTA.
Jessica Seitz is the Policy Analyst at National PTA.