Federal File: Change of heart?; Lending an ear
Last June, President Clinton asked Congress not to add additional national education goals to the six that had already been set by governors and former President Bush at the 1989 education summit.
Mr. Clinton, who was a key participant in drafting the goals when he was governor of Arkansas, said in a letter that adding new goals would "unnecessarily disrupt'' ongoing school-reform efforts tied to the goals.
Both the House and Senate rejected his advice and added goals on parent participation and teacher training to legislation that would, among other things, codify the national goals.
The Administration appears to be singing a new tune now.
In a speech before a meeting of the National PTA last week, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said he is "so pleased that the Congress seems just about certain to make parental involvement one of our national goals.''
"Your hard work has made all the difference, and I want to acknowledge your effort, both as a parent and as an education reformer,'' Mr. Riley told the crowd.
Last month, the Secretary announced a parent-involvement initiative, and parent involvement has been a prominent theme in recent speeches by Mr. Riley and Mr. Clinton.
For what lobbyists say is the first time in many years, education advocates recently got an audience with the Senate Budget Committee to discuss increasing federal funding for education.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., called on Congress to follow a nonbinding provision they added last fall to an appropriations bill that includes education funds.
It calls for federal education spending to increase by one percent a year until it reaches 10 percent of the total federal budget by 2004. Education Department spending now accounts for about 2 percent of the federal budget.
"This [hearing] is only a start'' in an effort to increase pressure on lawmakers to fully fund the programs, Senator Dodd said.
Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith said the Clinton Administration could not endorse the senators' amendment. The problem, he said, is that it would not allow the government to stay within the discretionary spending caps the Administration negotiated with Congress last year.--MARK PITSCH & LYNN SCHNAIBERG