Federal File: Impact of Aid; A New Coalition; Civil-Rights Dispute
U.S. Representative Pat Williams, a Montana Democrat who serves on House committees responsible for the federal budget and for education programs, has scheduled Budget Committee hearings later this month on the impact of federal funds on American education.
Representative Williams's action, according to an aide, is in response both to the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education and to the reaction to it--specifically, President Reagan's assertion that student test scores declined at the same time that federal aid to education soared.
A New Coalition
In a different response to the commission's report, several politically conservative groups have formed a coalition to focus the report's recommendations on the local schools.
The "American Education Coalition," as the group is known, will be headquartered at the Free Congress Foundation, a prominent policy-research organization that promotes "pro-family" issues. Connaught C. Marshner, an official of the foundation who recently headed the Advisory Panel on Financing Elementary and Secondary Education, and Marcella Donovan, a research associate for the panel, will be directing the coalition.
The coalition, Ms. Donovan said, is funded by "private donations," although it is endorsed by New Right groups, including Citizens for Educational Freedom, the National Christian Action Coalition, and the Family Protection Lobby.
The group's first activity will be the circulation, through direct mailings, of a 10-point "education declaration." The group is also developing a series of seven "action kits" on such topics as: forming an "effective" parents' group, evaluating sex-education programs, analyzing classroom discipline, lobbying on the grass-roots level, getting elected to the school board, combating drugs and alcohol in the schools, and initiating a back-to-basics curriculum.
"The purpose of preparing these action kits is to make parents aware of the issues, so that they can make changes that they think are needed," says Ms. Donovan. Parents who receive the kits will also receive telephone calls from the coalition asking "if we can help them," she said. "I don't know of any organization that has done that."
Opponents of President Reagan's recent decision to replace three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are contending that he may lack the legal authority to do so. Normally, the President has the right to remove regular appointees in the executive branch. But because the civil-rights commission has an independent status, it may be immune from the turnover proposed by Mr. Reagan, the opponents claim, citing Supreme Court decisions that prevented former Presidents from replacing other commissioners.
At least one current civil-rights commission member--Mary Frances Berry--has indicated that she might file a lawsuit should the Senate approve her replacement's nomination.--ew and tm