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Program Extensions Clear First Hurdle

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WASHINGTON--More than a dozen federal laws aiding elementary and secondary education would be extended through 1993 with only minor changes, under legislation approved last week by a House subcommittee.

The "school improvement act,'' HR 5, incorporates programs ranging from Chapter 1 to magnet schools to emergency immigrant-education assistance in a single bill.

While the measure has cleared its first legislative hurdle, members of the House subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education agreed to postpone action on controversial issues until next week, when the legislation is scheduled for action by the full Education and Labor Committee.

But few substantial disagreements have surfaced during deliberations thus far--except for the perennial controversy over bilingual education. Most of the legislation enjoys the bipartisan sponsorship of Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee, and its ranking Republican, Representative William F. Goodling of Pennsylvania.

Notable by its absence was any consideration of the Education Department's proposals on Chapter 1, including a controversial provision for compensatory-education vouchers, which attracted no support from the subcommittee's Republicans.

The programs included in HR 5 are due to expire at different times over the next two years, but the legislation would put them all on the same authorization schedule, so that future Congresses could consider all elementary and secondary education laws--except for vocational and handicapped programs--at the same time.

House action on the bill is expected sometime next month, according to a spokesman for the Education and Labor Committee. The Senate subcommittee on education, arts, and humanities has yet to begin drafting similar legislation.

HR 5, as amended by the House subcommittee, includes the following:

Chapter 1

HR 950 would extend the $3.9-billion Chapter 1 program of remedial services for educationally and economically disadvantaged students.

The measure calls for an additional $400 million for "concentration grants'' to poor districts; $100 million for secondary-school programs; $50 million for "even start'' programs for needy preschool children; and $30 million to help school districts comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's Aguilar v. Felton decision in serving parochial-school students.

Also, responding to findings that only 40 percent to 50 percent of eligible children are served by Chapter 1 because of a shortage of funds, the panel approved a nonbinding resolution calling on the Congress to spend an additional $500 million on the program in fiscal 1989.

A host of minor and technical amendments were adopted by the subcommittee. School districts would be required to take various steps aimed at increasing parental involvement. Studies would be mandated on the adequacy of services to migrant children and the costs of Felton. And financial incentives would be added for districts to provide services to handicapped students in nonsegregated facilities.

Chapter 2

HR 1795, in extending the $500-million Chapter 2 block-grant program, would earmark 25 percent of state "set-asides'' for "effective schools programs,'' while encouraging local districts to use their Chapter 2 funding for that purpose.

Such programs would include planning, instructional improvement, and staff development. Also, they would feature innovations based on effective-schools research, as defined by the legislation: "strong and effective administrative ... leadership that creates consensus on instructional goals,'' an emphasis on basic and higher-level academic skills, "a safe and orderly school environment,'' continuous assessment of students and programs, and "a climate of expectation that virtually all children can learn under appropriate conditions.''

Bilingual Education

HR 1755, an extension of the Bilingual Education Act with no major changes, was approved by the panel--but with the understanding that the issue of expanding support for "English only'' alternative programs would be resolved by the full committee.

The Reagan Administration has promoted a measure, HR 1448, that would remove the current "4 percent cap'' on funding for such alternatives, but the subcommittee's Democrats have strongly opposed the measure.

Attempting to reach a compromise, Representative Steve Bartlett, Republican of Texas, last week proposed to raise the cap to 25 percent, while guaranteeing that funding for transitional bilingual education and bilingual teacher training would not be cut below 1987 levels-- about $81 million and $33 million, respectively.

As part of the deal, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett reportedly agreed to ask the Office of Management and Budget to raise its 1988 budget proposal for the program from $143 million to $167 million.

But Democrats, wary of the Administration's promises, objected that the amendment could mean a freeze in funding for all but English-only programs. Also, the proposal would not "hold harmless'' the current appropriations for several other provisions of the law, including family English literacy, developmental and academic-excellence programs, and technical assistance.

Mr. Bartlett agreed to withdraw his amendment and to work with Representative Dale Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, on a funding formula that would prove acceptable to both sides.

Indian Education

HR 5 would reauthorize Indian programs now administered by the Education Department. An amendment sponsored by Mr. Kildee that would block a controversial plan by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to turn the 112 schools it now runs over to state control, unless Indian tribes agree to run them under contract.

The amendment would also establish a new program of "self-determination grants'' that would make it easier for the tribes to assume control of B.I.A. schools, if they wish, as compared with the current contract system. The grants could also be used to support other tribally controlled schools, including those now operated under contract with the BIA

Mathematics and Science

HR 1958, sponsored by Representative Thomas C. Sawyer, Democrat of Ohio, would extend the Education for Economic Security Act and expand its Title II, which is aimed at improving mathematics and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools.

The bill would double the title's current authorization to $400 million--although the Congress only appropriated $80 million this year--while removing many current restrictions on how the money may be spent.

Also, 75 percent to 80 percent of the funding would be reserved for school districts, with the rest going to state programs. The bulk of the funds would go toward teacher training, Mr. Sawyer said.

Other Programs

  • The Drug-Free Schools Act, a three-year grant program that was passed last fall in a flurry of anti-drug activity, would be extended through 1993.
  • A dropout-prevention amendment sponsored by Representative Charles A. Hayes, Democrat of Illinois, would establish a $50-million program to support demonstration projects by school districts. A similar measure passed the House last year, but was never acted on by the Senate.
  • Federal support for the instruction of gifted and talented students, which was incorporated into Chapter 2 block grants in 1981, would again become a categorical grant program, authorized at $25 million annually. The measure, HR 543, was sponsored by Representative Mario Biaggi, Democrat of New York.
  • HR 1896, sponsored by Mr. Kildee, would authorize $115 million in federal aid to magnet-school programs, up from $75 million currently.
  • Under an amendment proposed by Representative Matthew G. Martinez, Democrat of California, the emergency immigrant-education-assistance program would be increased from $30 million to $40 million.
  • Funding for the Education Department's Center for Statistics would be authorized at $26 million, a 20 percent increase, under an amendment by Representative Peter J. Visclosky, Democrat of Indiana. Also, the center would be directed to collect more comprehensive data on school dropouts and to make state-by-state comparisons in student achievement levels.
  • A proposal by Representative William D. Ford, Democrat of Michigan, would enhance due-process protections for federal grantees during audits by the Education Department.
  • Also, with only minor amendments, the following programs were extended: impact aid, adult education, the Excellence in Education Act, the Women's Educational Equity Act, Allen J. Ellender fellowships, and aid to U.S. Territories.

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