House Passes $200-Million Bill To Lure Top Students Into Teaching
Before beginning its annual summer recess last week, the House of Representatives approved a $200-million bill to encourage top students to become teachers.
The bill, HR 4477, would create 10,000 college scholarships of up to $5,000 for students in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. It would also provide fellowships in the amount of a teacher's average annual salary to two teachers in each of the 435 Congressional districts to allow them a one-year sabbatical. The House proposed that the measure be authorized for five years.
The Senate, meanwhile, passed two education-related measures before adjourning. It reauthorized the Vocational Education Act and approved a $50-million measure for asbestos cleanup in schools.
The bipartisan Talented Teachers' Act, which passed in the House by voice vote Aug. 8, is intended to meet the increasing demand for teachers "with the most able" students, rather than the least able, said Representative Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois and a principal sponsor of the bill. The bill's three other principal sponsors are Representatives Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, E. Thomas Coleman, Republican of Missouri, and William Goodling, Republican of Pennsylvania.
The measure, however, appears stalled in the Senate, largely because of concern over its cost, according to Congressional aides.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, has called for hearings on the bill, as well as the concept of "merit-based scholarships," said Dennis Hernandez, an aide to the senator. No hearing dates have been set.
The Senate, by voice vote on Aug. 8, passed a five-year vocational-education reauthorization that provides $900 million for fiscal 1985, which begins Oct. 1.
Before it can be signed into law, however, the Senate measure will have to be reconciled with the House version, from which it differs "vastly," according to Howard Matthews, Republican staff member of the Labor and Human Resources Committee. (See Education Week, March 7 and May 9, 1984).
Both bills have the same number, HR 4164, the Senate attaching the House number to its bill through a technical change.
The Senate version is a compromise worked out in committee last spring by its sponsors—Senators Robert Stafford, Republican of Vermont, and Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island—and Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who is the committee's chairman.
It authorizes $880 million for the bulk of vocational-education programs; $20 million for consumer and homemakers' education; and $3.7 million for bilingual vocational training. It also adds $6.2 million for the Women's Educational Equity Act, which had been slated for elimination by the Reagan Administration.
Under the terms of the bill, states would be required to spend 50 percent of their basic vocational-education grants on programs that serve "special-needs" students and another 50 percent for program improvement and expansion.
Under Title II—the "special-needs" section of the bill—25 percent of funding is earmarked for the handicapped; 50 percent for disadvantaged students; 23 percent for single working parents and homemakers; and 2 percent for inmates of correctional institutions.
While the House bill authorizes only "such sums as necessary" over the next five years, its likely cost next fiscal year is $1.1 billion, according to Congressional Budget Office figures.
The Senate bill also authorizes $500,000 for a "National Summit Conference on Education" and provides guidelines for the meeting. Such a meeting would be timely, said the bill's authors, because of the national need to meet "increased economic competition" and the clear and present "problems and deficiencies in American elementary and secondary education."
Participants would include teachers, parents, school administrators, state legislators, and representatives of business and labor, as well as an executive committee with members appointed by the President, the House, and the Senate.
Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell sponsored a similar education summit conference in Indianapolis last December. The Administration has argued against the need for another meeting of this sort.
Asbestos Clean-Up Funds
In other developments, the full Congress approved $50 million for the first year of a $600-million, seven-year federal asbestos-cleanup plan that was signed into law by the President Aug. 11.
The appropriation, an amendment to the $6.4-billion fiscal 1984 supplemental appropriations bill, is awaiting the President's signature.
It was introduced by Senators Walter D. Huddleston, Democrat of Kentucky, and James Abdnor, Republican of South Dakota.
The seven-year authorization, a rider to a bill to improve mathematics and science education that passed in the Congress three weeks ago, provides assistance to school districts that face serious health risks from asbestos and can demonstrate financial need, said Barbara Magnuson, an aide to Senator Abdnor.
The program is an attempt to "lend a bit of a helping hand" to school systems that are severely strapped by the costs of their asbestos clean-up program and to send a signal to states that the federal government considers asbestos a major problem, she said.
Under the provisions of the bill, governors are to prepare a list of the schools most in need—based on the health and financial considerations—and submit the list to the Secretary of Education and the Administrator of the Environmental3Protection Agency, who will prepare a "national-priority list," Ms. Magnuson said.
To ensure that town and small-city school districts do not get crowded out by the needs of major cities' schools, she said, the bill reserves about 25 percent of the funding for equal distribution—0.5 percent of the total appropriation for each state and the District of Columbia. The EPA administrator has discretion over the remaining 75 percent of the allocation. The assistance can be a grant or a low-interest loan; grant funds are limited to half of the aid package.
"The idea," said Ms. Magnuson, "is to get the money to stretch as far as possible."