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Pitched Battle Over Clinton Plan To Shift Chapter 1 Aid Seen

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WASHINGTON--Sixteen states would lose millions of dollars in federal remedial-education aid under the reauthorization proposal for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act released by the Clinton Administration last week.

The 34 other states, however, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, would gain funding.

The dramatic shift would result from a new Chapter 1 funding formula that would target more money to counties with the highest concentrations of child poverty and a proposed $700 million increase for Chapter 1 in fiscal 1995, when the legislation would take effect.

States would be guaranteed at least 85 percent of their previous year's funding, somewhat cushioning the blow.

The proposed formula is certain to undergo a searching examination on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers learn whether the school districts they represent would be winners or losers.

Lobbyists and Congressional aides--and Administration officials themselves--predict a hard-fought battle.

"I'd be stunned if Congress went along with the formula, and I'd be stunned if the Administration has the stomach for the fight,'' said Bruce Hunter, an associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

While research generally supports targeting funds to the neediest schools, Mr. Hunter said, the Administration has failed to provide alternatives for those that would lose out, particularly in rural areas.

"You can't just cut people's dollars in half and say, 'God bless you,''' he said.

Lawmakers will also scrutinize a proposal to eliminate the Chapter 2 school-improvement block grant and target those resources, along with money from the Eisenhower mathematics and science program, to teacher training and professional development. This plan was met with mixed reviews by lobbyists and aides.

Because of the popularity of the Chapter 2 program, in which grants are used for everything from upgrading libraries to purchasing educational technology, Mr. Hunter said, this proposal "may ultimately be more controversial than the changes in Chapter 1.''

10-Year Reauthorization

These revisions of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are among the myriad recommendations the Administration presented last week in its proposal to reauthorize the E.S.E.A. The plan would extend the programs for 10 years, rather than the customary five.

The most radical revision of federal education programs since the E.S.E.A. was passed in 1965 as part of President Johnson's "War on Poverty,'' the proposal seeks to draw on current education research. (See Education Week, Aug. 4, 1993.)

"E.S.E.A. is a good program that needs to be made better,'' said Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, who presented the plan at a news conference along with Undersecretary Marshall S. Smith and Thomas W. Payzant, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

"We simply have to respond to the new face of education, and not be shy about sticking our necks out to help these children,'' Mr. Riley said.

The legislation is linked to the Administration's "goals 2000'' reform strategy and would require states to develop educational standards and ways to measure progress in order to receive Chapter 1 money.

"It's so important that all of our forces are moving in the same direction,'' said Secretary Riley. He noted that the "goals 2000'' legislation will go to the House and Senate floors soon and that many states have already begun setting standards.

The goals legislation calls on states to set standards for curriculum content and student performance, as well as "opportunity to learn'' standards to measure school services. It would also offer grants to support state and local reforms, codify the national education goals, and establish a process for developing model national standards.

States that participated in the goals effort could use those standards to qualify for Chapter 1. Those that did not would be still be required to set content and performance standards applicable to all students in order to receive Chapter 1 funds under the Administration's E.S.E.A. plan.

In effect, states would be prodded to buy into "goals 2000.''

"It just means what everybody's been saying all along about the standards being voluntary: Bullshit. They're mandatory, and they're tied to money,'' Mr. Hunter said.

The proposal would not require states to establish opportunity-to-learn standards in order to participate in Chapter 1.

Increasing Accountability

The reauthorization comes as critics are questioning the effectiveness of Chapter 1 in helping poor children learn, and the Administration proposal requires that schools receiving Chapter 1 money demonstrate progress in meeting their states' performance standards. Those that did not would be subject, eventually, to such sanctions as alternative governance arrangements, the transfer of students out of failing schools, or the removal of teachers.

"I don't think any [corrective action] is left off the list short of a nuclear attack on the school district,'' said Edward R. Kealy, the director of federal programs for the National School Boards Association.

The proposal would set aside 50 percent of all Chapter 1 money--as compared with 10 percent currently--for "concentration grants'' to the neediest areas. It would also increase the threshold for concentration-grant eligibility, requiring that a county have at least 100 poor children or an 18 percent poverty rate among its school-age children. Currently, counties can qualify with 10 poor children or a 15 percent poverty rate.

The proposal would also require that districts serve all schools with at least 75 percent poor children, in an effort to direct resources to middle and high schools, which typically receive much less Chapter 1 money than elementary schools do.

The plan would also make it easier to operate a schoolwide project, in which funds are used to upgrade an entire school, rather than to benefit only eligible children. Currently, at least 75 percent of a schoolwide project's students must come from poor families; the proposal would gradually lower that threshold to 50 percent.

Other Highlights

The legislation, which was presented without cost estimates or proposed authorization levels, would also:

  • Change the name of Chapter 1 to Title I, as it was called until 1981.
  • Target the Even Start program for preschoolers and their families to the poorest families and allow teenage parents to participate.
  • Allow only children who have moved within two years to participate in the migrant-education program.
  • Double to 20 the number of weekly hours an incarcerated youth must be taught under the Chapter 1 program for neglected and delinquent youths.
  • Create programs to encourage finance equalization and charter schools and aid in the purchase of educational technology.
  • Change the mission of the Jacob K. Javits gifted-and-talented-education program to spur schools to offer enriched programs to all students.
  • Retain an arts-education program once slated for removal, while eliminating several other small programs.
  • Require districts receiving funds under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to submit plans for drug and violence prevention.
  • Expand the Women's Educational Equity Act to allow grants to be used for programs to prevent sexual harassment, train teachers and administrators in gender-equitable instruction methods, and help pregnant and parenting teenagers stay in school.
  • Allocate impact aid by multiplying the number of federally connected students in a district by the state's per-pupil expenditure and the average share of educational costs borne by districts in that state. The Administration would also eliminate funding for children whose parents either live or work on federal property, arguing that they place less of a burden on districts than students whose parents both live and work on federal property.
  • In accordance with the Administration's effort to make federal agencies more accommodating, the proposal would allow states and districts to combine their administrative funds and give the Secretary broad authority to waive regulations that "inhibit effective program operations.''

The House is set to begin hearings on the proposal this week and may complete work on a bill by the end of the year. Final action in the Senate is not expected until next summer.

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