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Senate Approves Bush Education Bill; Teacher Board Would Get $25 Million

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By Julie A. Miller

Washington--The Senate last week approved a revised version of President Bush's education bill by a vote of 92 to 8, after defeating attempts to excise provisions authorizing $25 million in federal aid to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The $460-million bill, S 695, incorporated almost all of the programs Mr. Bush proposed last year, including initiatives to reward outstanding schools and teachers, provide science scholarships, aid alternative-certification efforts, and extend magnet-school aid for the first time to districts that are not undergoing desegregation.

But the Labor and Human Resources Committee tied funding for several of these proposals to more money for existing programs and added Congressional proposals, among them provisions designed to curb student-loan defaults and those dealing with the standards board. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

The Congress earmarked $5 million for the teacher-standards board in fiscal 1990, pending approval of authorizing legislation.

The Bush Administration strongly opposes funding for the board. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has argued that noncompetitive grants are bad policy; that the department would be unable to ensure that taxpayers' money was being spent appropriately, and that4the requested amount is excessive.

Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, ranking Republican on the education subcommittee, offered an amendment that would have replaced the direct-funding provisions with a $6-million, competitive grant for development of assessment and certification procedures for teachers. It was defeated on a 57-to-40 vote.

Helms Attacks Unions

But more vociferous Senate opponents, led by Jesse A. Helms, Republican of North Carolina, focused instead on fears that supporting the board's efforts would lead to federal control of teacher licensing.

Mr. Helms also launched a lengthy attack on the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, contending that their members control the standards board and that the unions are attempting to use it "to gain control, and absolute control, of the teaching profession."

The Senator attacked the unions for attempting to exclude from teaching anyone who does not have "formal training in so-called educational theory," and for opposing teacher standards based on standardized, written tests or on student performance.

A Helms amendment that would have deleted the teacher-board provisions failed by a vote of 64 to 35. His proposal to replace them with grants to help states develop written competency tests failed on a 60-to-37 vote.

Mr. Helms did persuade propo8nents to add language, approved by voice vote, ensuring that the legislation would not require certification of private-school teachers or parents who teach their children at home.

Other Amendments

Other amendments adopted, all by voice vote, added to the bill:

A $5-million grant program to pay for "voluntary, random drug testing" of high-school athletes.

A program of Presidential awards for exemplary teachers that was included in Mr. Bush's original bill. (The education subcommittee had planned to consider it in deliberations on a teacher-training and recruitment bill it is drafting.)

Provisions of the "student-athlete right-to-know act," which would require colleges to report the graduation rates of their athletes. The bill would exempt those belonging to an athletic association that had already required such reporting.

A $10-million grant program for drug-abuse-prevention efforts modeled on "Project dare," a California program in which police officers teach children to resist peer pressure.

A proposal to create a $10-million program encouraging coordination of social services for children, including the provision of health and welfare services in schools, was defeated by a vote of 51 to 49. Several members of the Labor and Human Resources Committee said the idea has merit, but should be debated by the panel.

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