Democrats Plan To Revive Literacy and Goals Measures
Washington--Leading Senate Democrats served notice last week that they intend to revive several education proposals that died at the end of the 101st Congress, including literacy initiatives and a challenge to the Bush Administration's efforts to follow up on national education goals set last year.
The Senate majority leader, George J. Mitchell of Maine, included education when he listed his priorities for the upcoming session on the floor last week, and gave a prestigious bill number, S 2, to the "strengthening education for American families act."
Sponsored by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, the measure would "codify" the national education goals established by President Bush and the nation's governors. The bill also would add goals relating to the quality of teaching and higher education.
The legislation would also commit the federal government to unspecified increases in spending on education programs to help achieve the goals.
S 2 also revives a plan sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, to create a panel to monitor progress toward the goals. That panel--which would have a majority of education experts and would replace or compete with a panel established last year--was vigorously opposed by the Administration.
The existing panel consists of governors, Administration officials, and nonvoting Congressional representatives.
The new bill's final section incorporates a package of literacy initiatives that won overwhelming approval in the House and Senate last year but died as part of an omnibus education bill at the end of the session. Its primary sponsor was Sena8tor Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois. (See Education Week, Nov. 7, 1990.)
It would establish an interagency task force on literacy to monitor federal programs, a National Institute for Literacy, a network of state or regional literacy centers, and a contract between the secretary of education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to produce and distribute family-literacy programming.
"S 2 is the guideline for our education agenda," Mr. Mitchell said in a statement. "For each of the national education goals established in Title I of S 2, we will work on legislation during this Congress.''
Besides affirming the goals set by the Administration and the governors, the bill adds two more: that by the year 2000 "there will be a well-qualified and diverse teaching faculty in every school in the nation" and "no qualified student shall be denied the opportunity for postsecondary education because of financial or other barriers."
To achieve the goals, the bill calls for additional funding of a variety of education programs, from Head Start preschool aid to Pell Grants.
Calling education "the phantom" of President Bush's domestic agenda, Mr. Kennedy said S 2 complements other legislation to be introel15lduced by members of his committee designed to bolster the economic foundations of working people.
Those initiatives include legislation requiring major employers to provide "family leave" to workers--a proposal vetoed by Mr. Bush last year.
Mr. Kennedy announced that he and Senator Claiborne Pell, the Rhode Island Democrat who is chairman of the Senate's education subcommittee, would introduce a package of teacher-training initiatives similar to another component of last year's ill-fated omnibus bill.
Various incarnations of last year's package included a teacher corps, professional-development academies, scholarships and loan-forgiveness plans for prospective teachers, and programs aimed at attracting minorities to the profession.
Capitol Hill sources said teacher-training proposals are likely to become part of legislation to reauthorize higher-education programs, which expire in 1992. (See Education Week, Jan. 16, 1991.)
In addition, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bingaman introduced a proposal to study the feasibility of adopting a longer school year.