Conferees Back Measure To FreeFunds for Board
Washington--The Congress last week was considering a conferenceagreement to a supplemental spend0 ing bill that included a provision thatwould allow $5 million in federal funds to flow to the National Boardfor Professional Teaching Standards.But the agreement, worked out late last Thursday, requires that board funds be subject to audit, andthat the board be required to workwith the Education Department inusing the money.
The requirements are similar to provisions included in last year's unsuccessful omnibus education bill, which would have provided funding for the board.
Conferees added the conditions after the Senate earlier in the week passed the supplemental spending bill, HR 1281, and included funding for the board with no strings attached. The measure is a supplemental spending bill designed to help underwrite Operation Desert Storm.
Senator Jesse Helms, Republican Of North Carolina, tried and failed to void the board-funding provision on the Senate floor last week.
The language would amend the appropriations law for the current fiscal year, which earmarked $5 million for the teacher board, to allow the money to be spent without authorizing legislation. The Congress has failed to pass such legislation despite several years of efforts by proponents.
Proponents said they intend to attach similar language to legislationreauthorizing the Higher Education act, but wanted to prevent money appropriated for this year from lapsing.
Blocked in Last Session
In the last session, the Senate approved authorizing language as part of a bill built around President Bush's education initiatives. That bill and several other education measures were incorporated into an omnibus bill later in the session.
Administration officials supported the final compromise, although they had strongly opposed funding for the board, arguing that it would improperly place a federal imprimatur on the board's work and that federal grants should not be awarded noncompetitively.
The bill was ultimately defeated by a handful of conservative senators who prevented the Senate from voting on it, citing the board funding a one of their major concerns.
Mr. Helms has repeatedly charged that the board is controlled by the teachers' unions, and that their real agenda is to wrest control over teach er certification from the states.
Last week, he also complained that supporters had circumvented the legislative process and violated rules barring authorizing legislation from appropriations bills.
The Senate voted twice along party lines to retain the language, on a 60- to-40 procedural vote and a 61-to-39 vote on a Helms amendment that would have voided it. Two Republicans voted with the majority both times; five did so on one vote but not the other.