From insurrection to impeachment to inauguration—January has been quite a month for current events! And maybe you thought you could safely tune out of politics—at least a little—after the inauguration, but it’s been almost impossible to miss the controversies bubbling up around Freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is a newly-elected Republican member of the House of Representatives from a deep-red district in Georgia, a supporter of Q’Anon—a fringe conspiracy theory group identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a domestic terrorism threat—and a leader in the emerging Republican Qaucus.
Greene’s radical politics certainly aren’t a new phenomenon, and they weren’t a deal-breaker in her recent election. In fact, she’s known for elevating conspiracy theories, making racist and anti-LGBTQ+ statements, and publicly endorsing the violent execution of prominent Democrats, now her frustrated colleagues.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ students, Greene is poised to throw her support behind a bill that would ban trans girls from participating in school sports.
And while Time’s Phillip Elliot claims Republicans can’t win with Greene, Republicans answered by appointing her to the House Education and Labor Committee.
Needless to say, Democrats aren’t happy.
Political beliefs aside, it is the responsibility of House leadership to appoint members to the education committee who “reflect their commitment to serving students, parents, and educators.” So we have to ask: Does Marjorie Taylor Greene represent where the Republican Party stands on important education issues?
But, wait—there’s more! Greene will join the education committee with 10 of her novice colleagues, including Madison Cawthorn, the Hitler-curious lad from North Carolina last seen speaking at the rally that launched the January 6 assault on the Capitol. In fact, 11 of the 24 Republican seats on the education committee of the 117th Congress are rookies. Sure, new members have to be placed on committees, too. But, by contrast, only four of the 26 Democratic seats will be held by brand new members.
Folks, this is why we can’t have nice things in education.
The House Committee on Education and Labor is a standing committee, which means they consider, debate, and shape the vast majority of proposed bills concerned with education. This committee will tackle issues including, but not limited to:
- School Choice
- Special Education
- Teacher Preparation and Quality
- Science-based reading instruction and literacy programs
- Early childhood and preschool programs, like Head Start
- School lunch and nutrition programs
- Programs for at-risk youth
- Anti-poverty programs
- School discipline and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline
- Civil rights in education
This committee will also oversee the finances of the Department of Education.
Although seniority doesn’t necessarily equate to competence, it is—or it should be—critical that good, rational, and competent people are sitting at the table where these important decisions about education are made, especially now, as the coronavirus pandemic shines a bright light on persistent and pervasive systemic inequities.
Education activists across the nation have some expectations for this new administration, as they demand better education and a brighter future for every child, and this committee will play an important role in that conversation. But allotting nearly half of a party’s committee’s seats to political newcomers tells us something about how much political know-how and muscle an issue warrants in the party’s overall agenda. What message does this send to educators, parents, students and advocates about where education ranks among the priorities of Republicans in Congress?
For me, this is a clear message on education from the House minority. And, coupled with dangerous character choices like Greene and Cawthorn, I’m more than a little concerned about the future of education policy. Our kids deserve better than Q’Anon on the House Education Committee.