House committee votes to eliminate 'duplicative' education programs 

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has approved a bill to eliminate more than half of all federal K-12 education programs.

Currently, federal law authorizes the Department of Education to administer over 80 such programs, many of which are considered duplicative, underperforming, or unnecessary. Most individual programs also have their own application process, which makes it difficult for school systems trying to take advantage of multiple streams of revenue.

“If a federally funded program is failing, it is our duty to get rid of it,” Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who sponsored the legislation, said at a committee meeting Wednesday.

Democrats defended many of the programs targeted for elimination, emphasizing the importance of literacy and advocating for continued federal support for libraries and reading programs.  “You talk to kids now days, they don’t go to libraries, they go to Wikipedia,” Hunter replied.

Lindsey Burke, an education analyst for the Heritage Foundation, said that Hunter’s bill could be a turning point for federal education policy. “Over the years, we have seen a proliferation of niche programs. I think that this is certainly the first step towards streamlining resources at the Department of Education,” she said. “Federal money goes down through stovepipes and school leaders don’t have much flexibility to target those resources in a way that would be most beneficial to students.”

The bill is part of a series of education reform measures the committee plans to take up as it prepares to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The law was last extended in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s signature education reform initiative.

Hunter said the overall goal is to reduce the number of specific programs administered by the federal government, and give states and school districts more flexibility in using federal funds.

Republicans on the education committee are aiming to accomplish these reforms through several small bills, instead of comprehensive reform legislation.

Hunter’s bill, which would terminate 43 programs in total, now awaits action on the House floor, likely sometime in the next few weeks.

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