In November of last year, when Bill Goodling became the chairman of the committee overseeing education and workforce issues, there was uncertainty about his position in the party. Many people questioned how his moderate views and bipartisan approach would align with the conservative agenda championed by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the Republican freshmen. However, in his first six months as chairman, Goodling has proven himself to be a key player in the conservative revolution.
Conservatives commend Goodling for his ability to build coalitions within the party, even when it means supporting legislation that goes against his personal beliefs. "He’s done a very good job of balancing a delicate situation," says Rep. Mark E. Souder. However, some observers believe that Goodling’s performance is influenced by pressure from party leadership. Souder suggests that Goodling knows he could be replaced if he doesn’t push for reforms.
Goodling acknowledges that there are philosophical differences among Republicans on his committee but asserts that he is leading the education agenda in the House. He believes that compromise is essential for effective leadership. He admits that there may be legislation that would have been different if he had complete control but recognizes the need to work with others.
The Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, formerly known as the Education and Labor Committee, has passed three major pieces of legislation in its first six months. Each time, Goodling has faced challenges from individuals on his political right. One of the proposals involved converting all federal food programs into a single block grant, a plan that Goodling initially opposed. However, after a conversation with Speaker Gingrich, Goodling designed a compromise that satisfied both sides. He views this as a victory and has earned respect from conservative colleagues.
However, some argue that Goodling’s actions were influenced by Speaker Gingrich’s office. Rep. Dale E. Kildee claims that Gingrich’s office was in control and even had a representative present during committee deliberations.
Overall, Goodling has proven to be a skilled leader who can navigate the complexities of his party while still advocating for his preferred policies. His ability to compromise and build coalitions has earned him a place of influence within the Republican party.
In February, Representative Bill Zeliff, a Republican from New Hampshire, introduced HR 1120, a bill that proposes transferring federal job-training and vocational-education programs to the governors in the form of a single block grant. Speaker Gingrich and Representative John R. Kasich, a Republican from Ohio, who chairs the House Budget Committee, have also signed on as co-sponsors. Republican governors have expressed their support for this proposal.
However, Mr. Goodling’s bill, HR 1617, offers a different approach by creating four separate block grants. One of these block grants would include vocational-education programs, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, and other youth-oriented programs. Despite some education lobbyists’ pleas to give primary control over this block grant to school districts and community organizations, HR 1617 provides for control by the governors, with input from chief state school officers if appropriate under a state’s constitution. Arnold F. Fege, the director of government relations for the National PTA, suggested that the Zeliff bill was a signal to Mr. Goodling to give in once again, this time to the governors. However, Mr. Gunderson argues that HR 1617 showcases Mr. Goodling’s ability to find compromises and neutralize those who want to give complete control to the states while leading efforts to consolidate redundant programs.
Observers wonder how Mr. Goodling, as chairman, will navigate the challenges posed by budget-cutters seeking to minimize the federal role in education policy and dismantle numerous programs that he has helped shape for decades.
The battle lines were drawn last month during the committee’s markup of HR 1045, a bill that aims to repeal the National Education Standards and Improvement Council. This council was established under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act to develop model national education standards and certify voluntarily submitted standards from states. It has faced widespread criticism for infringing on local control of education. During the markup, Mr. Goodling had to use a procedural tactic to prevent Representative Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, from adding language revoking the entire Goals 2000 law. In order to appease opponents of federal involvement in education, Mr. Goodling promised that they would have additional opportunities to restrict it.
Their most significant opportunity will arise when the committee considers proposals to downsize or eliminate the Department of Education. Although Mr. Goodling expressed his hope last fall that this issue wouldn’t dominate their agenda, it has become symbolic of conservatives’ desire to reduce the size of the government. Mr. Goodling has supported a proposal by Mr. Gunderson to merge the Department of Education with the Department of Labor. On the other hand, some House freshmen have prepared legislation that would abolish the Department of Education and most education programs altogether. Many education advocates hope that Mr. Goodling will stand his ground and fight against these proposals.
Born on December 5, 1927, in Loganville, Pennsylvania.
Education: Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland in 1953; Master of Education from Western Maryland College in 1956; completed doctoral work at Pennsylvania State University in 1962.
Military Service: Served in the U.S. Army from 1946 to 1948.
Career: Worked as a teacher, coach, and counselor in the South Eastern School District from 1952 to 1957; served as principal of West York Area High School from 1957 to 1967; president of the Dallastown Area School District board from 1966 to 1967; superintendent of schools in the Spring Grove Area School District from 1967 to 1974; currently serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 19th Pennsylvania Congressional District since 1975; became the chairman of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee in January 1995.
The Chairman’s Views on Setting Priorities:
"This committee will not measure success based on increased funding or the creation of new programs, unlike in previous years. The days of solving every problem with a new federal program are over. Our success will be determined by innovation, efficiency, and quality. We need to view the government as a helping hand rather than an intrusive force that interferes in the affairs of states and communities."
"At present, we are driven by the idea that we will achieve a balanced budget by 2002. My hope and plea to the leadership is that the authorizers should be the ones deciding how we reach that goal, rather than the Budget Committee or the Appropriations Committee."