Federal File: Ford's program; Damage control
After reaching a compromise on a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, House and Senate conferees last week did what they usually do after squeezing blood out of each other. They praised their colleagues effusively.
This time was a little different, however, as it was the final conference for Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, who is retiring at the end of this session.
In honor of Mr. Ford's 30 years in office, the conferees voted to name the Clinton Administration's new direct-loan program--which he championed--after him.
"I don't know how long it will last, or whether it will work as well as we promised, but I'm willing to take my chances," Mr. Ford said.
A pilot program was authorized in the 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Last year, Congress enacted a full-blown direct-lending program, intended to eventually replace the current loan-delivery system, at the urging of the Clinton Administration.
When Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley met with the leadership of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans last week, damage control was at the top of the agenda.
Word got out last week that the 25 commissioners were disgruntled to learn that they were not going to be sworn in by President Clinton at a Rose Garden ceremony.
While the commissioners thought it was a done deal, the Sept. 23 event was not on the schedule of the President, and Vice President Gore could not attend either.
Commissioners then asked that Secretary Riley swear them in, but he was in his home state of South Carolina for his father's funeral.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina then agreed to oversee the ceremony. But by that time the Rose Garden was no longer available, and the swearing-in ceremony was moved to a Washington hotel.
Commissioners, some of whom had brought their families, were irate and refused to settle for that deal. A ceremony is being planned for December, when they will return to Washington for another meeting.
While the formal event was delayed, commissioners did meet after being sworn in via affidavit.