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Meet the New Republican Members of the House Ed and Labor Committee

January 31, 2021

The big news of late is that Q Anon-espousing, school-shooting-conspiracy-spewing, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has been assigned to (of all things) the House Education and Labor Committee for the 117th Congress.

I was curious about the other new members of Ed and Labor, so I thought I’d do some light investigating.

Here are the 11 new Republican members:

  • Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) is seated for now, but her seat is being contested by her Democratic challenger, Rita Hart. After a recount, Miller-Meeks won by only 6 votes. Hart has appealed to the US House regarding 22 votes that were tossed out; Miller-Meeks has filed with the US House to have Hart’s petition dismissed. Miller-Meeks holds a bachelors in nursing, a masters in education, and an M.D. Her background includes being a director of public health. According to her campaign site, it seems Miller-Meeks did not have a section for education among her platform issues.
  • Former NFL player (1973-82), Burgess Owens (R-UT) was in the news as he acknowledged Biden as president and publicly apologized to Democrats for (as the January 28, 2021, Salt Lake Tribune puts it) “lumping liberals in with Marxists and socialists in the past.” Burgess voted against certifying the 2020 election, saying in January 2021 that he was ony objecting to Pennsylvania’s votes, which would not have affected Biden’s win. In December 2020, Owens stated that there was “no question” Trump won a second term. Owens won the seat formerly held by a high school classmate of mine, Kim Coleman, who Owens beat in the Utahs Repubican primary in June 2020. Owens holds a bachelors degree in biology and chemistry. According to Ballotpedia, Owens supports “market-based solutions for healthcare”; according to Owens’ campaign site, he believes recipients of federal funding “must be held financially accountable for the ability of their students to produce in the marketplace.” Owens also states that students leave higher-ed institutions “unprepared for work requiring critical thinking skills and saddled with massive debt” and “embracing the godless ideologies of Socialism and Marxism.”
  • Bob Good (R-VA) graduated from Liberty University in 1988 (finance) and in 2010 (MBA, leadership). Good worked in finance until he accepted a position as an associate athletic director at Liberty University in 2005. He also served on te Campbell County Board of Supervisors from 2015 to 2019. He does not mention education among the issues on his campaign site, though he does advertise fighting the transgender bathroom mandate in public schools and advocating for homeschooled students to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities.
  • Lisa McClain (R-MI) holds a BA in business from Northwood University. She is the senior vice president of Hantz Group, a Michigan-based, financial services conglomerate. McClain has been with Hantz Group since 1998; prior to that (1987-1997), she was with American Express. McClain does not mention education as an issue on her campaign site.
  • And then there’s Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Greene’s Georgia district includes the city of Rome, Georgia, where Greene moved in order to run for office (and where I taught for five years, from 1993 to 1998). Greene offers no position on education on her campaign website. On her House web page, under the heading, “education,” all that is there is the message, “For more information concerning work and views related to Education, please contact our office“– which is the default for no educatin platform posted. Even so, there is no real need to contact Greene’s office since her bizarre, offensive, dangerous views have been well publicized by Greene herself and are concisely summarized in this January 29, 2021, New York Times article and this January 28, 2021, Huffington Post piece, and this January 27, 2021, CNN post. Greene has called school shootings as staged and is on video harassing Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor, David Hogg. Survivors of those slain in the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings are among those pressing for Greene’s removal from the House Ed committee.
  • Licensed pharmacist and Tennesse native, Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) offers the following regarding her education platform: “As the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school and college, I understand how a high-quality education can lead to greater financial security and success. I also understand that each student has unique learning needs and that there are many potential pathways to success, including apprenticeships, trade and technical schools, and traditional higher education options. Students and parents should be empowered with the freedom to choose the best education options to prepare them for future success in our East Tennessee economy. Further, I understand that local leaders know what’s best for their communities, and believe that education decisions should be made at the state and local level.” The language “freedom to choose” likely bespeaks support for school vouchers. Harshbarger’s husband, Robert, served a four-year prison sentence for charges of misbranding, mail fraud, and health care fraud while operating his company, American Inhalation Medication Specialists. According to Johnson City, TN, news outlet, WJHL.com, Harshbarger stated she had nothing to do with the company though corporation filings show her as secretary and then president while her husband was in prison. In November 2020, Harshbarger was elected to the House by a landslide.
  • Mary Miller (R-IL), who quoted Hitler the day before the January 06, 2020, attack on the US Capitol (and has since apologized), and who voted against certification of electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania, offered no position statement on education on her campaign website. Miller holds a bachelors degree in business management and “completed gradute coursework in education.” Her campaign bio states that she holds an Illinois teaching certificate but offers no indication that she has ever taught. Her site states that she and her husband have run a farm for forty years, and Miller identifies herself as follows: “Mary Miller is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a local farmer, and a business manager.”
  • Victoria Sparz (R-IN): Sparz was born in Ukraine and holds a bachelors in international economics and an MBA, both from the National University of Economics (Ukraine). Her husband is an Indiana native; Sparz has lived in Indiana for the past 20 years. As for her professional history, Sparz offers this on her campaign website: “Victoria has worked in the Big 4 public accounting firms for Fortune 500 companies, as an adjunct faculty at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and served as CFO at the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. She also started and currently owns several businesses, including financial consulting, farming and real estate.” Sparz also identifies herself as “a founding member of Hamilton County Tea Party.” Unlike most others featured in this post, Sparz does offer a position on education on her campaign website: “As a mother and educator, I understand that knowledge is an ultimate equalizer and quality education for our children has always been my top priority. Our post-secondary education has a lot of work to do. Above all, we need to align the cost of education with the earning potential of a career in that field and provide more workforce development opportunities. We must give flexibility to the states to improve K-12 education, reform higher education financing to improve accountability of colleges and better prepare our students to the future workforce demands.” 
  • Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI): According to his campaign website, Fitzgerald “earned his Bachelor of Science degree (journalism) from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1985. He purchased and ran the Dodge County Independent News in Juneau, WI, in 1990 and sold it in 1996 to the Watertown Daily Times where he remained as an associate publisher for a number of years. Fitzgerald joined the US Army Reserve in 1981 and served his country for 27 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.” He also served in the Wisconsin state senate from 1995-2020. During his time in the Wisconsin senate, in 2019, Fitzgerald’s committee assignments included employment relations. Fitzgerald’s campaign site for US House includes no statement about his positions related to education.
  • Madison Cawthorn (R-NC):  Cawthorn is another House Republican who voted against certifying the electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania and who later publicly accepted that Biden is president. An editorial in the January 28, 2021, Charlotte Observer includes this statement by Cawthorn at the Capitol rally on January 6th: “The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.” Cawthorn has received negative media attention for trying to shape his bio to make him seem like he accomplished more than he did. For example, Cawthorn’s Congressional bio states, “[Cawthorn] was also nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy by Rep. Mark Meadows in 2014. Madison’s plans to serve in the U.S. military were derailed that year after he nearly died in a tragic automobile accident that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.” However, according to ABC News 13, in a 2017 deposition, Cawthorn admitted that he knew he had been rejected for admission prior to his accident. Moreover, a blistering, January 22, 2021, article in the Nation reveals other sleights of truth on Cawthorn’s part, including his stating that he was training for the Paralympics, though no one associated with Paralympics supports Cawthorn’s story, and some have outright exposed the lie. As for Cawthorn’s being “CEO of a small investment company,” well, the company is really small– as the Nantion reports, it includes only Cawthorn, was formed in August 2019, and and reported no income (search SPQR Holdings here.) What Cawthorn has actually done, according to the September 13, 2020, 9th Street Journal, is this: “[Cawthorn] spent one semester at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia before dropping out. He worked at a Chick-fil-A restaurant and as a staff assistant to then-U.S. Rep. Meadows.” His House website is a bit muddled: On his “issues” page, under the heading “healthcare,” is a statement to click to see Cawthorn’s position on education. The link then takes one to a narrative about the importance of choice in healthcare.
  • Michelle Steel (R-CA): Steel emigrated to America from South Korea as a child. She currently serves as chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Her campaign site includes no education platform or position, and Ballotpedia is rather thin on information about Steel. However, in February 2016, her board “declared” school choice week, and Steel Tweeted about school choice on January 28, 2021. Her Orange County (CA) bio states that she is “a successful businesswoman” (no additional details offered) and “holds a degree in Business from Pepperdine University, an Executive MBA from the University of Southern California.” In this February 25, 2020, California Globe interview, Steel talks about working to help her mother run a men’s clothing store while Steel was in college at Pepperdine. Her mother then closed the clothing store and opened a sandwich shop, which led to Steel’s desire to run for public office: 

    “‘My mother got hit by the BOE tax board, and ended up paying taxes she did not owe,’ Steel explained. ‘As I watched my single working mother struggle to fight an unwarranted tax bill from the California State Board of Equalization,’ Steel said she felt helpless to do anything. ‘As an immigrant who owned a small business, my mother got harassed because she lacked the resources she needed to appeal the tax. After watching my own mother struggle, I knew I needed to help those who couldn’t help themselves, so I decided to run for public office.’

    “Steel said her goal in running for Board of Equalization was to help all small business owners. ‘I was a housewife running against a prominent Senator and won.’ Once inside the BOE as a board member, Michelle Steel said the system was so corrupt that companies which asked for refunds on a deposit tax, suddenly found themselves being audited by the BOE. Steel investigated and ended up making sure $400 million was returned to California taxpaying companies. ‘I stopped a lot of taxes! I did whatever I could,’ she said.

    “Following two terms of tax fighting on the BOE, Michelle Steel ran for Orange County Supervisor in 2015 and won.” 

In sum, many of the Republican members of the House Education and Labor Committee have professional experience that leans toward the labor side and not the education side. Some, like Michelle Steel, have entered politics with the noble goal of serving the public. However, most have no publicized positions regarding education. Cawthorn has limited education and professional experience, period, and Greene views school tragedies as staged events.

So this is where we are.

(POSTSCRIPT: I intended to also profile the new members on the Democratic side, but it has taken me about eight hours to write this post, and I need to rest. To see the entire membership of the House Ed and Labor Committee for the 117th Congress, click here.)

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3 Comments
  1. Ellen Lubic permalink

    OMG…Liberty U. and other non colleges…wow…education in the US will take a beating with this Motley Crew of bigots and conspiracy theorists. It is like a cadre of deVos goons. Who are the Dems on the Ed committee? Thanks Mercedes for keeping us educated…as always. Ellen

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  1. Mercedes Schneider and I: New Members of the House Education and Labor Committee | Diane Ravitch's blog

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