Ala. Joins 3 Other States in Rejecting Goals 2000 Funding
Alabama will become the fourth state to decline federal funding under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.
"The Goals 2000 program represents a new and unprecedented level of potential federal intrusion into state and local responsibility for and control over public education," Gov. Fob James Jr. said in a Sept. 27 letter to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.
Goals 2000--which bears a strong resemblance to a proposal that had been supported by the Bush administration--has been somewhat controversial since it was introduced by President Clinton in 1993. But shortly after the law's enactment in 1994, Republicans won a large number of elections at the local, state, and federal levels, and opposition has intensified since then. (See Education Week, Oct. 19, 1994 and June 7, 1995.)
Goals 2000 provides money to states, and through states to school districts, to implement reform plans based on challenging content and performance standards that participating states must agree to set. However, while the plans and standards are to be set at the state and local levels, critics argue that the program could become an avenue for more federal control over local schools.
Alabama joins Montana, New Hampshire, and Virginia in refusing to participate in Goals 2000. Montana received a first-year grant, but its legislature voted to prevent the governor or state education agency from participating a second year. Both New Hampshire and Virginia declined to submit applications for first-year funding.
Michael Cohen, a counselor to Mr. Riley, met with Alabama officials prior to the Republican governor's decision to return the $1.57 million the state had been awarded under the program.
"They clearly were not interested in making a decision based on the facts," Mr. Cohen said. "They're relying on people who are ill-informed and spreading misinformation."
Former Alabama state Superintendent Wayne Teague--who was appointed by the Democratic governor Mr. James defeated last year--applied for Goals 2000 funding in November 1994, but the state has not spent the money it was subsequently awarded.
Feagin Johnson Jr., the assistant state superintendent for general administrative services and the designated coordinator of the state's Goals 2000 effort, said that the state's recently adopted school-reform plan accomplishes "what the intentions of Goals 2000 had in mind." In his application, Mr. Teague also said the Goals 2000 money would complement the state's ongoing efforts.
But Donny Claxton, a spokes-man for the governor, said Mr. James did not want to "run the risk" of further federal involvement in the state's education policies.
"We couldn't get an assurance that there were no strings attached," said Edward R. Richardson, the new state schools chief, who took office this month.
Cleveland Hammonds, the superintendent of the Birmingham, Ala., schools, said his district could use the financial help.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Mr. Hammonds said last week. "I could not see the boogeyman in accepting Goals 2000 money."