Heritage Provides Conservative Blueprint for Education Policy
It is no mystery that the education-related recommendations of the Heritage Foundation's conservative policy guidebook, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, are being followed by the Reagan Administration, Heritage leaders suggest.
The book, says Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., was written expressly by and for Republican policymakers.
Mandate "was not a broad philosophical book," Mr. Feulner says. "It was done by people who knew the techniques, who knew how bills are put together."
The book's principal author was an aide to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Seven co-contributors also worked for conservative Republican Congressmen. The other authors included a senior researcher for the House Republican Study Committee, an ad hoc consortium of moderate-to-conservative House members; a staff member of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, another conservative organization; and the Heritage Foundation's education-policy analyst.
Now in Government Positions
Two of those authors--as Education Department officials--are now in a position to carry out their policy recommendations. The Republican Study Committee staff member, Donald J. Senese, is assistant secretary for educational research and improvement. George Archibald, a former aide to Representative Eldon Rudd of Arizona, is deputy assistant secretary for legislation.
They are joined at the department by Mandate's editor, Charles Heatherly--who spent a year on the Heritage staff supervising a total of 250 contributors to the book. Mr. Heatherly is now executive secretary to Terrel H. Bell, secretary of education.
The education-policy recommendations, as presented to President Reagan, are said to have numbered several hundred pages. Condensed to 50 pages, they were included in a paperback version of Mandate that has been sold in bookstores.
Those education policy suggestions, and the corresponding Administration initiatives, include:
Eliminating the Lau regulations governing bilingual education programs, which the Education Department, under Secretary Shirley Hufstedler, had proposed in August 1980.
Secretary Bell withdrew the proposed regulations on Feb. 2, 1981--less than three weeks after taking office.
Abolishing the Department of Education and "reducing [its] controls over American education."
The department, said Mandate's authors, should focus on three roles: "(1) information-gathering and dissemination; (2) consultation and technical assistance in dealing with on-site teaching problems; and (3) educational research and improvement."
Secretary Bell recently proposed a similar restructuring of the federal education bureaucracy to President Reagan. (See Education Week, Sept. 7, 1981).
"Replacing esea with a system of block grants." The authors propose that the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be repealed so that "the department's influence on state and local education policy and practice through discretionary grant authority would disappear." They advocate adopting any one of several different versions of a block-grants bill proposed in 1980 by Rep. John Ashbrook, Republican of Ohio.
In his budget package proposed last March, President Reagan recommended repealing esea and replacing it with a version of the Ashbrook bill which would have consolidated nearly all elementary- and secondary-education programs into two block grants.
The Congress eventually passed a different version of the Ashbrook bill, which deregulated Title I and consolidated 28 small education programs. The Administration has, however, stated its intention to propose future block-grants bills.
Reorganizing the office of school improvement, so that it functions mainly to support basic-skills programs. The authors recommended the elimination of the office's "innovative" programs, such as consumer education, arts in education, and metric education.
Secretary Bell recently transferred the office of school improvement from the authority of the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement to that of the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. Vincent Reed, who holds the latter position, is a well-known advocate of the "basics." In addition, Congress included several of the "innovative" programs in the block-grants package this year.
Eliminating two "radical" programs: the women's educational equity program, which Mandate says is concerned less with quality education than with "extreme feminist ideology," and teacher centers, which the publication says "function as taxpayer-financed union halls."
Teacher centers were included by Congress in the block-grants package. The women's program survives separately, but with 40 percent less funding than in 1980.
Diluting enforcement of civil rights in education, especially Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Services Act (which prohibits discrimination against handicapped persons); Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (which prohibits sexual discrimination in federally-funded education programs); and Executive Order 11246 (which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors).
The authors state that the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights (ocr), which enforces these laws, "has been the vocational haven of class-action advocates who have zealously carried out their interpretation of the letter of the law, while violating its spirit and intent."
Secretary Bell, in his recent memorandum to the President, advocated a "more cooperative" role for enforcement of civil rights that might include the elimination of ocr
The department already has implemented a "cooperative" policy in ensuring that colleges comply with Title IX. And the other two civil-rights laws are being studied for possible changes in enforcement.
Eliminating federal support for educational programs designed to "turn elementary- and secondary-school classrooms into vehicles for liberal-left social and political change...."
The authors directed this criticism toward curriculum materials developed with federal funds by companies such as the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Company in Colorado (which marketed the Human Sciences Program), and the Education Development Center in Massachusetts (which created "Man, a Course of Study"). They suggest the federal government should cease its support of such companies. Secretary Bell, in his recent memorandum to President Reagan, advocated discontinuing federal support of curriculum-development companies.
Establishing a "blue ribbon panel of distinguished citizens and educators committed to the attainment and improvement of basic academic skills...."
Secretary Bell recently appointed 18 persons to a National Commission on Excellence in Education, which he charged with reviewing American education during the past 25 years and recommending successful programs for future implementation.
"Examining federal policies and programs" for vocational education, in preparation for the reauthorization of vocational education legislation in 1982. The authors advocate investigating "what methods best work in dealing with youth unemployment."
The Education Department recently drafted a proposed 1982 vocational-education bill that would provide for block grants for state-administered programs and a "critical manpower training" section to aid President Reagan's plan to revitalize the economy. Funds spent on both parts would be targeted to programs for hard-to-employ youths. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1981.)
Other Policy Suggestions
If the attention that apparently was paid to those policy recommendations is any example, the Administration might also consider the authors' other policy suggestions. Those include:
Replacing Title I's compensatory-education programs with vouchers, which parents of disadvantaged students could redeem at public or private schools.
Reconsidering whether to continue funding the 16 eric (for Education Resources Information Center) clearinghouses around the country. The authors criticize eric for "advertising the availability of humanistic or value-shaping teacher methods."
Providing a way for every participant and recipient in an Education Department-sponsored program to evaluate the usefulness of the program. "The small administrative cost would be more than offset by the gains in more effective department...services," the authors maintain.
Requiring that recipients of federal education grants conduct a "needs assessment" to demonstrate a school system's need "for any federally-funded education activity, project, or program before it is approved for federal support."