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E.D. and House Democrats Negotiate on 'Goals 2000' Bill

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WASHINGTON--With President Clinton's "goals 2000: educate America act'' poised for floor consideration in both the House and Senate, the Education Department is continuing to negotiate with Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee to reach compromises on amendments the panel had added to the bill.

"It would be pretty embarrassing for them if they were faced with a version of the President's bill that he couldn't sign,'' a Republican committee aide said. "They can't guarantee what's going to come of a conference [between the House and Senate], so it behooves them to work out as much as they can.''

Congressional and Administration sources said the House committee's relatively liberal Democrats have become more willing to negotiate in recent weeks as it became clear that a coalition of Republicans and moderate Democrats--possibly with the support of the Administration--might be able to amend the bill on the House floor.

Some agreements reportedly have already been reached on compromise language.

The main sticking point remains a series of amendments strengthening "opportunity-to-learn standards.''

The bill would codify the national education goals, formally authorize the National Education Goals Panel and a National Educational Standards and Improvement Council, and create a grant program to support state and local reforms.

To participate, states would have to adopt standards for curriculum content and student performance, as well as "opportunity'' standards for the services schools provide and assessments to measure progress toward the academic standards. States could voluntarily submit their standards and assessments for certification by NESIC, which would also develop model national standards.

The House amendments would insure that the "opportunity'' standards would be developed simultaneously with the other standards, and require states to set timetables for helping schools that do not meet the opportunity standards.

The Administration also opposes parts of the House bill that would alter the composition and authority of the goals panel, and add a seventh national goal.

Senators are expected to offer similar amendments to modify the goals, an idea the chairman and vice chairman of the National Governors' Association--Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, a Democrat, and Gov. Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina, a Republican--strongly denounced in a letter they sent to Capitol Hill last month.

"To change the goals at this time draws into question the long-term commitment that we have made to achieving them,'' they wrote.

The governors pronounced HR 1804 "unacceptable.''

The version of "goals 2000'' pending in the Senate, S 1150, is closer to the Administration's original bill, and has more bipartisan support.

But the governors asked lawmakers to guarantee that federal funding will not be conditioned on compliance with national standards.

Skill Standards Compromise

Leaders of the Labor and Human Resources Committee will offer a floor amendment representing a compromise between the Administration and Senate Republicans on provisions that would establish a National Skills Standards Board.

The composition of the 28-member board has been a sticking point for months, with Republicans favoring a business-led majority to insure industry support.

Republicans agreed to give business and organized labor eight seats each, while the Administration agreed that the secretaries of Labor, Education, and Commerce, and the NESIC chairman would be nonvoting members and that the first chairman would come from the business community. Other members would include four human-resource professionals, a civil-rights expert, and three representatives from educational institutions, including vocational-technical programs.

A spokesman for Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan., who led the Republican negotiators, said she will now support the bill. And a Republican House aide said the compromise "goes a long way in addressing our concerns.''

Meanwhile, representatives of the special-education community praised the Senate panel for including in its report accompanying S 1150 a long statement declaring that disabled students "must be an integral part of all aspects of education reform.''

It demands that the goals panel and state reform panels consider these students' needs and that they be included in assessment programs. It also lists specific ways in which they can be accommodated, such as by means of sign-language interpreters.

Advocates for disability rights and special education lobbied for the statement to address their fears that disabled students would be left behind by the reforms envisioned by the "goals 2000'' legislation, said Joseph Ballard, the director of governmental relations for the Council for Exceptional Children.

Senior Editor Lynn Olson contributed to this report.

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