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E.D. Officials Begin Marketing Proposal To 'Reinvent' E.S.E.A.

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WASHINGTON--Two weeks ago, the Education Department took the wraps off its plan to radically rewrite the laws governing federal elementary and secondary education programs. Last week, it kicked off its marketing campaign.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and his top lieutenants hawked the plan in appearances before the House Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education and at a department-sponsored conference on the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program.

"I urge the Congress not to be modest in rethinking how we can reform and improve [the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's] many fine programs,'' Secretary Riley told the House panel. "If we do not give up some of our old assumptions, we run the risk of putting these children further behind--not because of poverty--but because we were unwilling to raise our own standards and reinvent our education programs to give more of these children a shot at the economic mainstream.''

Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

The proposal to retool the $9 billion E.S.E.A was officially introduced in the House last week and designated HR 3130. Its chief sponsor is Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., the subcommittee's chairman, and its 17 co-sponsors include two influential Republicans--Reps. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the committee's ranking member, and Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin.

If approved, HR 3130 would bring about the most far-ranging changes in the act and its signature program, Chapter 1, since it became law in 1965. (See Education Week, Sept. 22 and Aug. 4.)

The bill would change the Chapter 1 funding formula to pipeline more money to schools with high concentrations of poor children. While most states would be winners under the proposal, 16 states would lose their share of the pie, led by Iowa (-29 percent) and Maine (-28 percent).

HR 3130 would also make it easier for districts to spend their money on schoolwide projects rather than on the more typical "pull-out'' programs.

The bill would force states to adopt educational standards and ways to measure student progress in order to keep getting their Chapter 1 checks from the government, in effect lashing the bill to the Administration's "goals 2000'' education-reform strategy. (See related story, page 23.)

HR 3130 also would torpedo the Chapter 2 block-grant program and Eisenhower mathematics and science program and use the money for teacher training and professional development.

Smiles and Handshakes

The bill won generally favorable reviews in the House panel. Although some lawmakers chafed at certain provisions, reactions tended to run along the lines of Mr. Kildee's, who called HR 3130 "the most well-thought out reauthorization proposal in my 17 years in Congress.''

Lawmakers representing schools that would lose money under the bill asked for and got a commitment to change the proposed formula in an effort to shield poor children in relatively wealthy districts.

Mr. Riley said he expects the formula will undergo several rewrites as it moves through Congress.

"We want to stick by our principle and that is the prioritization of the poorest schools, and we'll welcome working with members of Congress with that principle in mind,'' he said.

Mr. Kildee, noting that the Education Department has secured a commitment from the Office of Management and Budget for an additional $700 million for Chapter 1 in fiscal 1995, warned the Secretary that many schools would suffer under the proposal if the federal government is not as generous in years ahead.

Mr. Riley replied that Chapter 1 funding "would be a top priority'' in the future. He added that HR 3130 would allow states to keep 10 percent of the Chapter 1 funds they receive for pockets of poor children who live in relatively wealthy areas.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Ohio, noting that the Administration wants to extend the E.S.E.A. for 10 years, said the government should think about basing states' shares of funding on population data other than those culled from the decennial census.

Mr. Riley said the department has been working with the Census Bureau on the issue, but that the project is "at a standstill'' because of trouble getting data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Goodling and Mr. Gunderson also praised the legislation, but Mr. Gunderson warned that their co-sponsorship does not necessarily mean they like the funding formula.

"This legislation is bigger than any one person or any one political philosophy,'' Mr. Goodling said.

Mr. Gunderson questioned the idea of killing Chapter 2, a program beloved at the local level because of its flexibility. Chapter 2 has become "almost a reliable source'' for schools' investments in technology, he said.

At last week's Chapter 1 conference, state program coordinators said they feared that the Administration's proposal might be misconstrued as an indictment of their record.

"We do believe that Chapter 1 should not be the sole driving force behind education reform in the schools, the districts, and the states,'' said Ethel J. Lowry of North Dakota, the outgoing president of the National Association of State Coordinators of Compensatory Education. "Yes, we have a long way to go, but we've come a long way.''

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