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Clinton's 'Goals 2000' Package Wins House Backing

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WASHINGTON--The House last week approved a revised version of President Clinton's education-reform plan, which would link the federal government with states in an effort to create a system of content and performance standards.

House lawmakers approved the proposed "goals 2000: educate America act'' by a vote of 307 to 118, after rejecting an amendment that would have substituted a reform plan focused on parental choice.

Supporters hope the bipartisan support shown for the bill, HR 1804, will give the Clinton Administration more clout in urging states and local communities to participate if it is enacted, as most observers expect.

Such support appeared unlikely as the bill emerged from the House Education and Labor Committee in July, when some Democrats attached amendments to alter the authority and composition of the National Education Goals Panel and strengthen the scope of so-called "opportunity-to-learn standards'' for school services that the legislation calls on states to adopt.

Republicans solidly opposed the bill, and those amendments were also opposed by the Administration. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

Months of negotiations yielded the compromise bill that was brought to the floor. (See Education Week, Sept. 29 and Oct. 13, 1993.)

In floor debate, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., the committee's ranking Republican, and Steve Gunderson, R-Wis.--both of whom voted against HR 1804 in committee--urged their G.O.P. colleagues to support the compromise. Fifty-seven did; two Democrats voted against the measure.

"This is not the same bill that was approved by the Education and Labor Committee,'' Mr. Gunderson said.

Proponents on the Democratic side of the aisle took pains to point out that the standards called for by HR 1804 are voluntary.

Higher Standards

HR 1804 "is a moderate first step to help states and local school districts help themselves'' to reform, said Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education.

HR 1804 would authorize $393 million in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 for competitive grants to states, which would then issue subgrants to districts for the implementation of local reform plans.

States would be required to submit a plan for developing state standards that describe what students should know, as well as the conditions needed in a school to help students perform at high levels--the opportunity-to-learn standards.

State standards could be voluntarily submitted to a new National Education Standards and Improvement Council for certification. The council would develop national standards as guidelines for states.

The National Education Goals Panel, which would be formally authorized under the legislation, would have ultimate authority over the standards developed by the council and the decisions of the council on state submissions.

HR 1804 also would codify the national education goals.

In addition, "goals 2000'' would establish a national skills-standards board to oversee the development of national occupational standards.

Although it calls for an overall authorization of $427 million for fiscal 1994, pending appropriations bills would provide only $100 million.

The companion Senate bill, S 1150, which more closely resembles the Administration's original bill, is expected to go to the Senate floor once appropriations bills are enacted.

Limited Debate

Debate over HR 1804 was relatively muted, a result of the lengthy negotiations between the Administration and members of Congress.

"Who would have known from watching C-SPAN what a torturous process it was to get that bill to the floor?'' said John F. Jennings, the Education and Labor Committee's general counsel for education.

Most discussion focused on a proposal to replace the bill with a plan to provide $400 million in grants to districts for specific reforms, including choice programs that could include private schools. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 300 to 130.

Lawmakers adopted amendments to add:

  • Language stating that the bill does not give the federal government control over states or school districts in the areas of curriculum, instruction, or the use of resources.
  • A requirement that standards adopted by the skills-standards board meet or exceed any existing standards for an occupation or industry.
  • An additional education goal, for parental participation, and the addition of physical and health education to the list of subjects in which the third national goal calls for student competence.

Lawmakers at the subcommittee level had already added a goal related to teacher training.

Mr. Goodling noted his opposition to adding goals--a stance the Administration and the National Governors' Association strongly agree with.

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