Monday, May 12, 2014

Yes, the House is still capable of bipartisan action...

...but what's interesting is where they choose to do it. Charter schools certainly aren't the least controversial issue facing congress and, if anything, they've become more so as stories have poured in about wastehuge payouts, discrimination, draconian discipline policies, and community protests. I don't want to demonize charters here -- there are a lot of good ones out there and I think they have an important role to play -- but they don't seem to be the sort of issue that could manage a 360 to 45 vote.

The answer lies, I think, in two factors: first, that it's easy to get a charter school bill in under the radar; and second, that charters have wide support on both the left and the right where it counts, in the media and among wealthy donors.

From the Hill:
The House on Friday passed bipartisan legislation to expand access to charter school funding.

Passed 360-45, the vote came in sharp contrast to the bitterly partisan debates this week over creating a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack and holding former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.

A majority of Democrats — 158 in favor and 34 against — joined all but 11 Republicans in support of the measure.

The bill authored by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. George Miller (Calif.), would consolidate the two existing federal charter school programs into one to award grants to state entities.

The measure would also authorize the secretary of Education to maintain a federal grant competition for charter schools that did not win state grants.

Republicans have touted the issue of school choice and access to charter schools as a way of limiting the federal government's role in education policy. Charter schools receive public funding, but operate independently and therefore are not subject to federal regulations.

"Expanding education opportunity for all students everywhere is the civil rights issue of our time," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said. "I say we help those students by expanding those slots so they can get off the waiting lists and into the classrooms."

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