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House Committee Passes Bill To Eliminate Standards Council

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Washington

A House education panel last week approved legislation that would abolish a national body created under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act to certify state education standards. But it turned back an effort to gut the grant program that is the heart of the Clinton Administration's Goals 2000 strategy.

By a voice vote, the House Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities approved HR 1045, which would repeal provisions of the 1994 law authorizing the National Education Standards and Improvement Council.

NESIC, whose members have not been formally named, was created to certify model content and performance standards and to certify state standards voluntarily submitted for review. Opponents fear it would serve as a national school board and have too much power over local schools.

Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., who chairs the committee, said in a statement that he hopes killing NESIC "will put a stop to an unwarranted federal intrusion into education while preserving education standards development by states and local school districts."

Mr. Goodling reiterated his support for standards-based reform, saying the standards movement "remains one of the most promising strategies for improving education for all children in our nation."

The Goals 2000 act was intended to bolster that movement. Under the program, the Education Department provides grants to states--and through them, to districts--to help in the development and implementation of improvement plans that provide for the setting of standards. Forty-seven states have applied for grants; 45 states have received them.

Eyes on Goals Panel

NESIC was not a part of the Clinton Administration's original Goals 2000 proposal, and officials said last week that the committee's action maintained the integrity of the program.

"I think what they did was fine. I think it will work out well," said Michael S. Cohen, a senior adviser to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

Mr. Cohen said he considers critics' fears about NESIC "unfounded."

"But now, nobody will have to worry about that," he said.

Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado and Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who are members of the National Education Goals Panel, plan to present a plan as early as next month to fill the void left by NESIC's demise, said Ken Nelson, the executive director of the goals panel.

He said they will likely suggest that the goals panel help states with standards development in a technical capacity, rather than act as a certifying body. (See Education Week, 3/22/95.)

While the House panel did not vote to abolish Goals 2000 grants, the idea is likely to resurface.

To ease passage of the NESIC legislation, Mr. Goodling forged an agreement that both the Democrats and Republicans would refrain from offering amendments. As part of that agreement, Mr. Goodling altered his original bill, removing sections that would have prohibited federal funding for the development and dissemination of national standards and deleted a requirement that states include in their Goals 2000 plans so-called "opportunity to learn" standards or strategies.

Rep. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., nonetheless offered an amendment to gut the Goals 2000 grants, which amounted to $372 million in the current fiscal year. But Mr. Goodling ruled the amend~ment out of order on procedural grounds, promising critics that they would have other chances to strike down or amend the law.

An aide to Mr. Goodling said HR 1045 may go to the House floor "in short order." Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, has introduced her own bill to eliminate NESIC, but an aide said she has no plans to take up the measure any time soon.

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