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Senate Approves Bill To Create Panel To Track Goals

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Washington--The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee last week approved legislation that would create an independent panel to measure progress toward national education goals and issue an annual "national report card."

The bill, S 3095, was approved 15 to 4. Three Republicans voted in favor of it despite the Bush Administration's opposition to a panel that would compete with or replace a monitoring committee established this summer by the Administration and the National Governors' Association.

The measure is a replacement for S 2034, a proposal introduced in January by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, that would have created a panel composed solely of education experts.

The new bill would establish an 18-member "National Council on Educational Goals." Ten members, who could not be state or federal elected officials, would be appointed by Congressional leaders on the basis of expertise in education or assessment.

The Democrats would name six of those members and the Republicans four. In addition, the President would be allowed to appoint two of the panel's members with no restrictions. The remaining six members would be selected by the n.g.a., and could be governors or education experts.

The Administration-n.g.a. panel, in contrast, consists of six governors and four Administration officials, with four members of the Congress as nonvoting members.

'Significant Improvement'

Senator Bingaman called the plan approved last week "a significant improvement over what we introduced and a significant improvement over what the President and the governors have done."

While one complaint from Capitol Hill about the n.g.a. panel concerned the Congressional members' nonvoting status, S 3095 would exclude them from its panel.

But Mr. Bingaman said the most important concerns were that the panel created by the White House and the governors would not be independent of the politicians responsible for the national goals, that it did not include educators, and that there was no provision for funding it.

Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, the ranking Republican on the Labor and Human Resources subcommittee on education, said she was concerned about creating "another level" of bureaucracy. And Senator Daniel R. Coats, Republican of Indiana, wondered just how helpful a national report card would really be. But they later voted for the bill, as did Senator James M. Jeffords, Republican of Vermont.

The strongest opposition was expressed by the full committee's ranking Republican, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who reiterated the White House's argument that the bill would duplicate the efforts of the nga-Administration panel. He also said he feared that the council proposed by the Senate committee would lead to "federal meddling and micromanagement" in an area of state and local responsibility.

Democratic aides said the Republican support would improve the bill's chances, but no decision had yet been made last week about whether it would be incorporated into omnibus education legislation being prepared for consideration on the Senate floor. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1990.)

Christopher T. Cross, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, and Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy director for domestic policy at the White House, said the Bush Administration would remain opposed to a new panel.

They reiterated that educators would be welcome as advisors to a monitoring panel, but the elected officials accountable for achieving the goals should be the voting members.

"This dilutes the responsibility and involvement of those who are charged with carrying out education reform," Mr. Cross said.

Governor Roy Romer of Colorado, the Democrat who was named chairman of the n.g.a. panel, could not be reached for comment.

At the committee meeting, Mr. Bingaman said Mr. Romer and Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana, another member of the nga panel, had expressed "interest" in his new bill but "didn't take a position for or against it.''

However, an aide to Mr. Bingaman said that while Mr. Romer gave no commitment to support the bill, he was actively involved in negotiations on it.

Mr. Romer said last month that he would try to prevent the establishment of two competing panels, but that it was possible the n.g.a. might revise its position.

S 3095 provides that the new panel's first-year chairman be selected "from and by" the members appointed by the n.g.a., which would allow Mr. Romer to be named at its head. Thereafter, a chairman would be elected by the council members.

The bill calls on the council to identify "gaps" in educational-data collection and report on educational achievement generally, as well as progress toward the goals set by Mr. Bush and the n.g.a. It would be empowered to modify the goals or set new ones and to hold hearings.

The bill would authorize $2 million for the council in fiscal 1991. It would also authorize $5 million to match state funds spent on state education summits or follow-ups to such summits.

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