Clinton, Lawmakers Set To Introduce Reform Bills
WASHINGTON--The education-reform bill to be unveiled soon by the Clinton Administration will call for a commission to set "service delivery'' standards to measure the capacity of schools, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told a Senate committee last week.
In addition, Mr. Riley said, the bill will propose giving state officials substantial oversight authority over a grant program designed to foster state and local reform.
In another sign of a quickening pace of action on reform legislation early in the 103rd Congress, the ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee last week introduced his own proposal and expressed hope that "we can return to bipartisanship in education policy.''
Both the legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., and the forthcoming Administration bill--as well as a third version that was introduced by Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education--are based on an education-reform measure that died at the end of last year. (See Education Week, Oct. 7, 1992.)
While the current proposals are similar in both form and intent, the differences may indicate the areas most likely to generate controversy.
All three versions of the legislation contain two main components. One part formally recognizes the National Education Goals panel and authorizes a federal role in the development of national education standards and assessments, while the other would establish an education-reform grant program.
The Clinton Administration views its proposal, to be called "Goals 2000: The Educate America Act,'' as the backbone of its education strategy, Mr. Riley told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
The bill would "establish a framework across this great country to allow all of us to work together toward common goals,'' he said.
Like last year's reform measure, S 2, and the current House bills, the Administration's legislation will seek to codify a politically balanced goals panel "with the full partnership of Congress,'' Mr. Riley said.
The Administration plan would also establish a council to "certify that academic-content standards and assessments are of the highest quality,'' he said.
The Kildee and Goodling bills, like S 2, would create a council that is a semi-independent arm of the goals panel, which would appoint its members. But Congressional sources said the Administration may propose a council with greater independence.
Mr. Goodling also added a new provision to his bill that would require the goals panel to appoint a commission to establish a system for assessing preschool children's readiness for school.
One of the most controversial issues in last year's debate was whether Congress should mandate the creation of service-delivery standards.
A group of House Democrats insisted that such standards would be a necessary counterweight to content and performance standards, which they argued would otherwise penalize disadvantaged students who attended schools with lesser resources. But opponents, primarily Republicans, warned the standards would lead to a "national school board'' dictating school policy.
Mr. Riley said the Administration would propose an "Opportunity to Learn Commission.'' The panel would develop standards addressing such issues as teachers' ability "to provide quality instruction'' in their subject areas, educators' access to "the best knowledge about teaching and learning,'' and availability of "challenging curricula geared to meet world-class standards,'' the Secretary indicated.
Mr. Goodling's bill does not discuss delivery standards, while Mr. Kildee's would require the goals panel to assemble a consortium of educators and policymakers to draft the standards.
State and Local Reform
Mr. Riley hinted that state officials would play a primary role in administering the grant portion of the Administration bill.
He said each state would convene a "broad-based, representative panel'' to develop a state reform plan.
States would then "work with selected school districts and schools to combine the strength of bottom-up reform with coordinated reform from the top,'' Mr. Riley said.
States and districts would work together to design curricula, teacher-training programs, and assessments, the Secretary added.
Mr. Riley also said states would be required to pass "more than 80 percent'' of their funds to districts for local reform efforts "by the third year'' of the grant program.
The Kildee and Goodling bills would require that 75 percent be given to districts in the second year.
Mr. Riley was asked how he would insure that districts serving large numbers of disadvantaged children would benefit from the program.
The Secretary responded that the bill would not specifically require that grants go to such districts, but "it will be a priority.'' He also said the legislation would benefit poor districts by promoting the philosophy that "we should have high standards but reward people based on improvement.''
The final version of S 2 would have directed the lion's share of funds to districts serving poor children. Mr. Kildee's bill would require each state to give a grant to the district serving the most such children.
Mr. Riley did not specify what provisions the Administration plan would include to increase educators' flexibility in using federal funds. But Congressional aides said it would include provisions similar to those in S 2, which would have allowed a limited number of districts to apply for waivers of rules governing certain education programs, while requiring that their efforts be targeted strictly at serving disadvantaged students.
Vol. 12, Issue 23, Page 25