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Kline touts charter school bill

  • April 5, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline is more optimistic at his second attempt at overhauling the way the federal government treats charter schools.

The chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee has again introduced legislation that makes it easier for successful charter schools to replicate and allows states to use federal cash to start new charter schools.

Like the last time Kline pushed a charter school overhaul in the House, this measure has broad bipartisan support, including from his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. George Miller of California.

And like last time, the bill has decent odds of passing the whole U.S. House of Representatives before they all adjourn to go home and run to get their jobs back this fall.

“We brought this bill out again and tweaked it again. It is a strong bipartisan bill that we can pass again with a strong bipartisan vote,” Kline said.

But the bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, where Democratic leaders are holding out for an entire revamping of the largely unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. In other words, Senate leaders don’t want to take a piecemeal approach to education reform. The House has passed a comprehensive bill, but the Senate hasn’t taken it up.

A spokesman for Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said, “He remains committed to moving a full Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill through the full Senate.”

Kline’s response? “You can write that I want the same thing,” he said.

But, he noted, he didn’t want kids to suffer while Congress delays action on important work that affects tens of thousands of students across the country. There are 6,000 public charter schools across the country.

Kline visited two Minnesota charter schools last week to promote his bill. Wait lists top 1,000 kids at some of the most popular charters, Kline said.

Across the country, charter advocates say 920,000 students are stuck on wait lists.

Franken: Raise the minimum wage

Democratic Sen. Al Franken made a case to boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 on Thursday, saying minimum wage earners would be good consumers and boost the economy if they had more cash.

“Businesses do need more customers and folks making the minimum wage are customers,” Franken said at a rally on Capitol Hill. “I go to businesses and ask them, why aren’t you expanding, and they say we don’t have enough demand … not enough customers.”

Then he deadpanned: “Goldman Sachs is right on this one. As they are on so many things.”

Franken added: “Parents shouldn’t have to work two or three jobs to clothe and feed and put a roof over the head of their children and not be able to go to their kids’ game,” he said.

“It’s just wrong. That’s not our country. That’s not the richest country in the world.”

Allison Sherry

© 2014 Star Tribune