Senate Committee Votes $25 Million for Professional-Standards Board
Washington--A Senate committee has approved legislation that would authorize $25 million in federal aid for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
But the proposal still faces some formidable obstacles, as the Administration opposes federal funding for the board and some key legislators agree.
The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee on July 20 unanimously approved a revised version of President Bush's education package that also includes a provision authorizing the funding and other Congressional initiatives. (See related story, page xx.)
Although she voted for the bill, Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, ranking Republican on the panel's education subcommittee, said she and other committee Republicans oppose the standards-board provision and that she would offer a "compromise" when S 695 reaches the Senate floor.
In a statement, Mrs. Kassebaum endorsed the board's agenda but said federal funding "raises serious questions" because teacher certification is a state responsibility.
At a hearing last week, some members of the House Postsecondary Education Subcommittee also questioned whether federal funding would be appropriate, while others supported it. The division did not run along party lines.
Representative Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the full Education and Labor Committee, said the money would be better spent on loan forgiveness to attract "the best and the brightest" into teaching.
But Representative Peter P. Smith, Republican of Vermont, argued that the board represents a unique opportunity to put research into practice.
Representative Pat Williams, the Montana Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, and E. Thomas Coleman, its ranking Republican, suggested that a compromise might be possible if the authorization level were reduced and ac8countability were increased.
"These people want to do something for this country and I don't want to turn them off," Mr. Coleman said.
Opposed by Cavazos
Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos vehemently opposed funding for the board, arguing that noncompetitive grants are bad policy; that the Education Department would be unable to ensure that the taxpayers' money was being spent appropriately; that the amount requested is "excessive," and no evidence has been offered to justify it; and that the planned research would duplicate some activities currently under way or planned by the department.
"To establish the board at the funding level suggested, without the department's oversight and monitoring, could open a Pandora's box of duplication, inefficiency, and wastefulness in the federal education research system," said the Secretary, who noted that the $25 million requested exceeds the department's entire research budget.
"We'll try to work out a comproel10lmise that the Administration can live with," said Richard Jerue, staff director of the subcommittee. "We'll try to increase the accountability factor without giving the department too much control."
The Senate bill would require the board to award each research project competitively and to place notices in the Federal Register; to "apply" for the federal share of each project; and to submit annual reports on the board's progress and future plans.
But the Education Department could not refuse an application if the proposed project complied with the statute, and it specifically states that the Secretary has no authority "to exercise supervision or control over the research program, standards, assessment practices, administration, or staffing policies of the board."
Mr. Jerue said he did not know whether or not the subcommittee would move the funding proposal as a separate bill.
Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who chairs the full Education and Labor Committee, has repeatedly criticized the Bush initiatives, and several committee aides said it was unlikely that the panel would approve a companion bill to S 695, although it has scheduled a hearing this week on the Bush package.