House Panel Amends Omnibus Education Bill
Washington--The House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education completed work on an omnibus bill reauthorizing seven education programs last week, adding several controversial amendments that are likely to encounter further opposition in the full Education and Labor Committee.
The bill, HR 11, would reauthorize programs in bilingual education, impact aid, Indian education, asbestos detection and control, the General Education Provisions Act (gepa), adult education, and the Close-Up program.
Responding to a recent suggestion by the head of the National Assessment of Educational Progress that the testing program could be modified to provide state-by-state comparisons, the subcommittee approved an amendment that would provide naep with funds to do so. (See Education Week, April 11, 1984.) The federally funded program currently lacks the capacity to make such comparisons, which were specifically prohibited in its original charter. The provision requires an amendment to gepa.
Under an amendment introduced by Representative Pat Williams, Democrat of Montana, naep would be authorized to receive $500,000 to establish a state-comparison component of its program and $300,000 annually to maintain it.
After considerable debate, the subcommittee members agreed to adopt an amendment to the bill that would, in effect, mandate the use of transitional bilingual education in federally sponsored programs. (See Education Week, March 28, 1984.)
Increase Federal Funding
The amendment, sponsored by Representative Dale Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, would also raise the federal funding level for bilingual education and would increase and improve the collection of information about bilingual programs.
But, reflecting a growing interest in the Reagan Administration in other methods of teaching children with limited proficiency in English, Republican members of the subcommittee opposed the exclusive use of transitional methods.
The subcommittee defeated several amendments that would have provided greater flexibility in program choice, including one that would have earmarked 15 percent of the funding for "alternative" approaches, and another that would have opened the entire program to a variety of approaches.
Representative Kildee and other supporters of his amendment said that they did not oppose the alternative programs "on principle," but be-lieved that it would be unwise to divert money from programs that had been proved effective.
Those opposed to the single-method approach, however, reiterated an argument that has been heard with increasing frequency about transitional bilingual programs: There are no solid research data showing that their effectiveness merits their exclusive use. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984.)
The subcommittee members approved the amendment despite the disagreement, saying that attempts to continue to expand the number of acceptable methods would continue when the measure is considered by the full committee.
The subcommittee also approved another amendment introduced by Representative Kildee to change parts of the federal Indian education program, authorized under Title XI of the Education Amendments of 1978. (See Education Week, April 18, 1984.)
But Republican members questioned the part of the measure that would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to assess the impact on each student enrolled before deciding to close any bia school. Such a requirement would be "a little bit obsessive," one Republican subcommittee member noted.
That measure, too, is likely to undergo further revision when it reaches the full committee.--sw