House Panel Amends, Approves Expansive School-Reform Act
Washington--The House Education and Labor Committee, guided firmly by its chairman, cleared the way last week for a vote by the full House on a major educational-improvement measure promoted extensively by the National Education Association.
The committee approved the proposed "American defense education act'' by a vote of 26 to 4 late last week despite a variety of delaying tactics, including occasional walkouts, by Republican committee members.
The panel also adopted amendments to the bill, the most important of which guarantees that several existing Education Department programs will not lose funding at the expense of programs that would be created under the proposal.
The main purpose of the measure is to improve instruction and student achievement in mathematics, science, foreign languages, and school curricula dealing with computers and high technology.
One of the chief complaints raised by Republican members about the measure is that it duplicates many provisions of HR 1380, the mathematics-and-science-improvement bill passed by the House in March 1983, and HR 2708, a bill passed several weeks ago to improve instruction in foreign languages.
The mark-up session started off on a discordant note with Representative Thomas J. Tauke, Republican of Iowa, raising a point of order. He complained that the committee was violating its own rules by acting on the bill, HR 881, without waiting the requisite 48 hours following its approval by the Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee.
The panel's chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, was prepared for that tactic, however, and immediately offered HR 5609, an identical, "clean" bill, as a substitute. Proxy votes in hand, he read the names of Democratic committee members who supported his move. It was a tactic to be repeated throughout the session.
Once the parliamentary roadblock was removed, Republican members began offering a series of amendments to the measure to make it more palatable to them. Among the changes adopted were:
An amendment by Representative Rod Chandler, Republican of Washington, altering the act's funding formula. Under his proposal, a school district's basic payment under the act would be equal to 2 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure for the state in which it is located, multiplied by the number of children between the ages of 5 and 17 residing in the district.
Districts would receive an additional payment equal to 0.25 percent of the state average per-pupil expenditure for each educationally disadvantaged child they enroll who is eligible to receive Chapter 1 services.
An amendment by Representative Ronald Packard, Republican of California, that changed the act's authorization level to "such sums as necessary." It had been estimated that the unamended version of the act could have cost the federal government close to $10 billion annually.
An amendment by Representative Steve Gunderson, Republican of Wisconsin, to bring the measure's anti-discrimination provisions in line with HR 5490, a bill now pending before the committee that was introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Grove City College v. Bell. (See related story on page 1.)
Although an amendment by Representative William F. Goodling, Republican of Pennsylvania, that would have deleted a section of the bill on teacher training was defeated 21 to 10, the committee agreed to add language in the bill's report stating that this section of the bill is not to be funded if the teacher-training section of the mathematics-and-science bill is funded.
An amendment by Representative Gunderson stating that the proposed act will not receive funds if the Chapter 1 program, the Chapter 2 education block-grants program, and educational programs for the handicapped are not funded at their appropriation levels for the previous year. Similar amendments regarding bilingual education, emergency educational aid for districts enrolling a disproportionate number of immigrant children, and vocational education were offered by Representatives Tauke and Steve Bartlett of Texas.
An amendment by Representative Chandler, giving school districts the option of including or excluding guidance and counseling programs in their plans for improving instruction and student achievement as mandated under the act. The original version would have required them to include these programs in their plans.
After lengthy debate, the committee defeated an amendment by Representative Bartlett that would have given school districts the option of using funds received under the act to establish "performance-based pay programs" for teachers. It also agreed to consider on the House floor a proposed amendment by Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, that would require districts to use funds received under the act to supplement, but not supplant, state and local funds.
In other action last week, the committee reported HR 3750 and HR 4628, bills dealing with computers in education, and a third, HR 4193, which would provide school districts and other public agencies with $30 million annually to establish after-school care facilities for the children of working parents.
HR 3750, as amended by the panel, would authorize "such sums as necessary" for the next three fiscal years to help school districts purchase computer hardware. It would also allow the National Science Foundation to develop teacher-training institutes and to establish a network of regional educational-software-evaluation centers.
HR 4628 would authorize a one-time-only appropriation of $15 million to set up a national educational-software corporation that would give venture capital to firms with the capacity to develop "high quality" courseware. Returns on investments in successful development projects would provide the project with a revolving fund for future investments.