Will Republicans reduce the federal ‘footprint’ in education?

Is it really a new day for education in the U.S.?  There is no dearth of opinions — or questions — about what could change now that Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections.  One conclusion is generally shared, though: Federal money will be scarce.

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is not a big fan of government spending.

The economy — and not education — took center stage in candidates’ campaigns and voters’ minds, but the two are of course intertwined,  Patrick Riccards notes on his Eduflack blog: “…those thinking there are new pots of money for additional rounds of Race to the Top, i3, edujobs, or other such programs are likely to be severely disappointed. We’re back to doing more with less.”

Hear, hear, says Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “A new era of budget austerity is upon us and it won’t be popular at all … states and school districts are flat-out broke. Just about all of the typical budget tricks (cashing in rainy-day funds, refinancing debt, looking for one-time windfalls) have already been used. And a GOP-controlled House is very unlikely to come to the rescue with another bailout.”

Riccards said in an interview with The Hechinger Report that one result of an inevitable shift in priorities could be a faster reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as NCLB under President George W. Bush), in part because incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) was among the lawmakers who worked with Bush on crafting the law.

“Obama realizes education needs a quick win,” Riccards said.

And Republicans and Democrats have been known to meet in the middle on education, writes Valerie Strauss on the “Answer Sheet” blog of The Washington Post.

Because Republicans and “Obama Democrats” meet in the middle on key education issues, Strauss notes, “there is some thought, including in the White House, that enough common ground can be found to reauthorize No Child Left Behind at some point in the next two years. Obama may be willing to give up a lot to get a legislative success in his last two years.”

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute expects to see some dialing back of a federal role in education as the new Republican House members attempt to cut back on record-level government spending. “Even sensible arguments about ESEA reauthorization and Race to the Top … will fall on deaf ears,” Hess predicted in an interview. “They will have very little interest in new spending, or in anything that even looks like new spending.”

On the higher-education front, InsideHigherEd reports there will be “no curveballs.”

“In the House, Republicans are expected to push for budget cuts and greater oversight of all of higher education, not just for-profit colleges. In the Senate, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will continue the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s examination of for-profit colleges into next year,” writes Jennifer Epstein.

Harkin and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) have said they plan to introduce legislation in 2011 targeting perceived waste, fraud and abuse in for-profit higher education.

Education Week reports that Republican control of the House “will almost certainly mean an end to emergency education aid to states … and will heighten pressure for a more limited role in K-12 policy.”