Midterm Election Results to Have Implications for Education Research
Midterm Election Results to Have Implications for Education Research

November 2018 

The results of the 2018 midterm elections are certain to have considerable consequences for education and science in the next Congress. Democrats won a definitive majority in the House of Representatives, gaining 39 seats for a total of 234, with Republicans claiming 200 seats.  Republicans maintained their majority in the Senate with several incumbent Democrats losing their races.

The change of leadership and composition in the House guarantees a shift in priorities. The new Congress will be more diverse in gender, race, and sexual orientation. Science advocates hope that seven newly elected scientists will bring an evidence-based approach to Congress when they start in 2019. Educators ran in record numbers, suggesting that there will be more voices making education a priority. 

Democratic House members have already promised to hold the Trump administration and, specifically, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos accountable for their actions. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who currently serves as ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, is expected to become the next chair. Current committee chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will stay on the committee as ranking member. Numerous members of the House committee either retired or lost their seats in the election, guaranteeing new faces on the committee.

Those interested in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) will be watching to see how the process moves forward. Unsatisfied with the HEA proposal authored by Foxx, Democrats introduced a very different version of HEA. The Senate has held numerous hearings on HEA over the past several sessions and has repeatedly stated its commitment to introduce a bipartisan bill. Leadership of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is expected to remain the same, with Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA).

In terms of funding for education and education research at the Institute of Education Sciences, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a strong supporter of education funding, will chair the House Labor, Health and Human Resources, Education Appropriations Subcommittee.  She is expected to push for a high allocation for her subcommittee bill, especially since she is a close ally of Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who presumably will chair the full Appropriations Committee. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) will serve as the ranking member.

There is likely to be considerable change in the membership of House committees with oversight of the National Science Foundation. Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) is the heir apparent of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee. Chair John Culberson (R-TX) lost his election, leaving the ranking member in question.

For the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) released this statement about her intent to seek the chair and, if successful, her priorities. Rep. Johnson has been a champion for the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate as well as the Geosciences Directorate. In addition, she has provided leadership to address sexual harassment in science, including introducing legislation supported by AERA as reported in October Highlights. Former chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) retired, and several senior Republican committee members, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), lost their seats in the election, leaving Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) as the new ranking member.

In the Senate, Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Science, Justice, and Transportation, lost his seat in the election, and John Thune (R-SD) is expected to cycle out of the role as chair due to term limits.

Important work remains to be completed in the lame duck session, primarily completing the budgets for seven federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the Census Bureau, currently operating under a continuing resolution at flat funding from FY 2018 until December 7. House and Senate committees have passed their respective bills but will need to reconcile the differences before agreeing on a full-year budget. Of particular concern is the nearly billion-dollar difference between the House ($4.8 billion) and Senate ($3.8 billion) budgets for the Census Bureau in FY 2019.

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