Tom Harkin's Retirement Will Leave Education Committee Gap: Ed Today

Tom Harkin Out? This weekend, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced he won't be running for reelection. While the "liberal lion's" announcement made news, what I didn't see mentioned in many stories about the retirement is that Harkin is chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee -- the very one that is in charge of dealing with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. So what's next for HELP? Harkin has told me he intends to reset the reauthorization process while he's still there, but as the folks at Politics K-12 note, that desire could "set up an interesting dynamic with the Obama administration," which is more focused on implementing the waivers it has issued from the law to 34 states and Washington, D.C. The White House wasn't exactly thrilled with the bill his committee moved last year.

Also, his retirement will leave a gaping hole in the chairmanship of the committee. Some have said that, by seniority, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a former preschool teacher, is next in line. But taking into account other senators' chairmanships -- Murray, for example, chairs the Budget Committee -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) might just be up next, someone pretty smart told me. Now wouldn't that be interesting?

Davos Learning? At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, speakers seemed enthused about the rise of the MOOC -- that is, Massive Open Online Courses. A 12-year-old from Lahore, reports the New York Times, is using them to foster her ambition of becoming an astrophysicist. "Education has long played a part in the annual deliberations here," the Times writes. "But this time, many participants may have detected what Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard's president, described as 'a lot of attention.'"

NYC Bus Strike Rolls Into Third Week The lede of this Wall Street Journal story about the effects of the strike on a student with disabilities is heartbreaking. Read it there. "As the strike enters its third week, parents like Ms. Charles whose children have special needs are continuing to struggle to get them to school," Lisa Fleisher and Rachel Cromidas report. "Some are spending money on taxi rides to school, while others are carving out time from busy schedules to drive children to class or spend the day at home with them."

FourSquare Education News? This is pretty neat! Now, if you "check in" to a public school on the FourSquare app, you can see how it ranks when its opportunities are compared to others. The program uses data from the U.S. Education Department's civil rights survey, as prepared and presented by journalism outlet ProPublica. (Via GothamSchools.)