Several Clinton Proposals Win House Panel Backing
With plans to take action early next month, a House subcommittee has reached agreement on many elements of a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including a controversial provision that would essentially require states and districts to participate in the Clinton Administration's proposed "Goals 2000'' program in order to receive Chapter 1 funds.
But consensus among the members of the House Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee has not yet emerged on some of the most controversial elements of the bill.
Chief among them are the Administration's proposals to alter the funding formula for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program; to essentially eliminate the Chapter 2 block-grant program; and to refocus the Eisenhower Mathematics and Science program to focus on professional development in all disciplines.
"Despite some disagreements, it seems the Congress and the Administration are in agreement on the basic overhaul of the program, and that is a standards-driven reform with a fair amount of flexibility,'' said John F. Jennings, the education counsel to the full House Education and Labor Committee, which is scheduled to vote on the measure a week after the subcommittee markup, which is set for Feb. 1 and 2.
The most significant agreement embodied in the draft legislation released by the subcommittee last week is to adopt a requirement that states submit plans to the Education Department explaining how they would set challenging content and performance standards for Chapter 1 students.
The 'Goals 2000' Connection
While theoretically limited to Chapter 1, this provision would essentially force states to buy into the Administration's "Goals 2000'' education-reform effort, which, among other things, would provide reform grants to states and districts. Only those that set standards for student performance and school services and develop related assessment systems would be eligible.
Subcommittee members are also leaning toward agreeing to an Administration proposal to reduce the proportion of poor students schools must enroll to use their Chapter 1 dollars throughout the school, according to a subcommittee aide. The Administration has proposed reducing it in phases from 75 percent to 50 percent.
The draft would also give states more flexibility to consolidate funds from multiple federal programs, an idea that was backed not only by the current administration, but also by its two Republican predecessors.
The draft legislation is the result of several months of staff negotiations. Last November, the subcommittee called off plans to mark up the reauthorization bill before Congress adjourned for the year.
It is unclear whether further discussions will result in agreement on other issues or whether they will be worked out in public session.
The committee hopes to dispense with the bill before an anticipated conference on the Administration's proposed "goals 2000: educate America act,'' and before debate begins in earnest on health-care reform, Mr. Jennings said.
Committee aides predict that lawmakers will not accept the Administration's plan to target more Chapter 1 funds to school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty.
Subcommittee members have also not bought into the Administration's plan to eliminate Chapter 2, Mr. Jennings said, because educators have impressed upon lawmakers how much they appreciate the flexibility of the program.
The draft also does not include a requirement that high-poverty schools provide two health screenings a year for poor students.
"The Administration is pressing hard on that, but the members are afraid that that will open the door to using education money for health,'' Mr. Jennings said.
Lawmakers are also discussing educational technology and trying to reach agreement on one proposal, he said. The Administration has proposed creating an office of educational technology within the Education Department.
The drug-free schools program is being handled by the Select Education Subcommittee and is not included in the draft. Neither is a proposal for bilingual education, an issue that is mired in a longstanding controversy over how much federal money should support "alternative'' programs that do not use students' native language.
The draft also proposes significant changes to the impact-aid program, which compensates districts for tax loss due to the presence of federal property or workers.
Following a proposal submitted by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, the subcommittee is proposing a weighted, per-student formula under which federally connected children that are viewed as imposing greater educational burdens, such as disabled students, would entitle a district to more funds.
The Administration's plan would simplify funding calculations and reduce the number of students eligible for aid.