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Senators Decry Lack of Progress On School Goals

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Washington--Democratic senators indicated at a hearing last week that they are not satisfied with the Bush Administration's efforts to follow up on the national education goals set last year with the National Governors' Association.

Further, they said, they are still displeased with the makeup of a panel set up to monitor progress toward the goals.

"I think there's a reasonable question about how much has really been accomplished and how much support you're getting," Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, told Governor Roy Romer of Colorado, the chairman of the monitoring panel.

The senators questioned whether the panel was independent from the White House and the Education Department, which has agreed to provide $400,000 for its operations.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, noted that the Congress had provided $2 million that the panel could use--if it were changed to have a majority of members who are not elected officials. Mr. Bingaman plans to revive legislation creating such a panel, which has been vigorously opposed by the Administration.

Mr. Romer, a Democrat, said he had fought to keep the panel independent, and indicated that he would like to reach a compromise with Congressional critics.

"Whatever we do, we ought not to have parallel tracks, and remember the importance of having governors sign on and say we are accountable," he said. "You can't have a panel made up entirely of experts."

In a recent interview, Mr. Romer said he had been trying to persuade panel members and White House officials to negotiate with lawmakers, who were angered at being given nonvoting status and at the exclusion of educators.

"I am advocating strongly that we close that gap," he said. "It's an unnecessary tension."

Last week, educators said more must be done to follow up on the goals.

When they were set, "many of us on the front lines were cautiously optimistic," said Constance E. Clayton, superintendent of schools in Philadelphia. "That optimism has now largely been tainted by skepticism and undermined by inactivity."--jm

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