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House Action on President's 'Goals 2000' Proposal Imminent

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WASHINGTON--The House is expected to approve the Clinton Administration's education-reform bill this week, although Republicans plan to offer several amendments.

The proposed "goals 2000: educate America act'' was at first scheduled for a floor vote last week. But the debate was delayed briefly to give lawmakers time to study a package of amendments--the fruit of negotiations between the Administration and House Democrats--that will be offered with the bill, and to submit their own amendments for consideration by the House Rules Committee.

"We would have been happy to go [last] week,'' said Michael Cohen, a counselor to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, "but some people were concerned that, moving it as rapidly as we could, there would be no foreknowledge of the amendments offered.''

HR 1804 would codify the national education goals and formally authorize the National Education Goals Panel, establish a federal role in creating a system of standards and assessments, and create a grant program to spur state and local education-reform efforts.

It calls on states to adopt content, performance, and "opportunity to learn'' standards, which they could voluntarily submit for certification by the goals panel and a new National Education Standards and Improvement Council that would develop national standards as guidelines.

Mr. Riley, Mr. Cohen, and other Administration officials negotiated for weeks with Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee to reach a palatable compromise on a set of amendments to HR 1804.

The Administration had been dismayed by a series of amendments offered by the Democrats as the bill cleared earlier legislative hurdles.

For example, Rep. Patsy T. Mink, D-Hawaii, pushed through an amendment that would have restricted the goals panel--composed of federal and state politicians--to reviewing and commenting on the decisions of the standards council, whose composition would be more field-based.

More Possible Changes

The Administration and the National Governors' Association wanted the goals panel to have the ultimate decisionmaking authority. A compromise would allow the panel, with a two-thirds vote, to reject certification criteria and model standards developed by NESIC.

Much of the compromise was hammered out late last month, and endorsed by President Clinton days later. (See Education Week, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 1993.)

"The package of amendments isn't going to change, and the President is not going to withdraw his letter of support,'' Mr. Cohen said.

While that bodes well for HR 1804, other amendments are expected.

Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, will seek language clarifying that the legislation does nothing to dictate how states and localities use their education money.

An aide to Mr. Goodling said that the bill "has the potential'' for federal mandates because it calls for states to develop "opportunity to learn'' standards to evaluate the adequacy of school services.

The Administration and the N.G.A., which have tried to limit the scope and authority of the opportunity standards, demanded language specifying that states will not lose funding under other federal education programs if they do not participate in goals 2000 or if they fail to meet minimum standards. But Mr. Goodling's aide said it does not go far enough.

Mr. Goodling and Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis., will also offer an amendment to the portion of HR 1804 that would create a National Skills Standards Board to endorse national occupational standards.

The amendment would remove a provision, added at the committee level, that exempts more than 200 existing apprenticeship programs from certain skills standards. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

Composition of the skills board, which has been debated in the past, may also come up for discussion.

The counterpart Senate bill, S 1150, which is closer to the original Clinton bill, is set for a floor vote after appropriations bills are approved.

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