On February 15, Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) was named the new chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce after Representative John Boehner (R-OH) was elected House majority leader. Under House rules, Boehner had to relinquish his post as committee chair, a position he had held since January 2001.
“The new realities that I discussed in my chairmanship bid are an economy that is worldwide, high tech, and highly competitive,” said McKeon. “The edge that America brings to the table is innovation and adaptability. If we lose that then we will lose not only our standard of living, but our position of global leadership.”
McKeon, who has held a seat on the committee since 1993 and previously served as chairman of the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, has specified that he wants to improve the quality of American education, train the workforce to adapt to a high-tech global economy, and make regulations that are more streamlined and less costly.
During his time as chairman, Boehner played a critical role in negotiating the No Child Left Behind Act, working closely with President Bush on the landmark education law. One Republican who has worked with both Bush and Boehner told Roll Call, a publication covering Congress, that Bush and Boehner’s relationship is “a little closer than most Members [have]. I think they forged a pretty strong bond during Boehner’s stewardship of No Child Left Behind. They came to respect each other and trust each other.”
With Boehner now installed as the House majority leader, a post second only to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), educators hope that he will use his influence and his relationship with President Bush to give education issues a higher profile. As Larry J. Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, noted in Education Week, “Education is “a focus of Boehner’s, and obviously the majority leader has a lot of flexibility” and influence on agenda-setting.