Status of Federal Legislation
This monthly update reports the status of key education-related bills as of March 6, 1996.
Education Appropriations, Fiscal 1996
House version would provide $20.8 billion for discretionary Department of Education programs, a $3.7 billion cut from fiscal 1995. Senate version would provide $22.1 billion. The bill also funds programs in the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, including Head Start. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1995.)
House bill passed Aug. 3. Senate bill is stalled, primarily due to legislative riders. The leadership lacks enough votes to head off a filibuster.
Next: Bill is likely to be superseded by a long-term continuing resolution funding many agencies. (See story, page 25.)
Stopgap Spending Authority
PL 104-99 (HR 2880)
Law keeps the Education Department and other agencies whose fiscal 1996 appropriations bills have been stalled or vetoed running through March 15 at reduced funding levels. It also raised the maximum Pell Grant and eliminated funding for six small education programs. (See Education Week, Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, 1996.)
President Clinton signed the bill Jan. 26.
Next: Congress began consideration last week of a bill that would fund federal agencies without appropriations for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If President Clinton vetoes it, another stopgap bill would probably be enacted.(See story, page 25.)
The House version of HR 3019 would provide at least $21.2 billion for discretionary Department of Education programs in fiscal 1996, with another $1.4 billion contingent on later budget agreements between Congress and the White House. The Senate version would provide at least $21.7 billion, with an additional $1.7 million in contingent funds. The bill would also provide continued funding for programs in other agencies, including the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Interior. (See story, page 25.)
House began debate on its version of the continuing resolution last week. Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version on March 6.
Next: Once each chamber clears its version of the bill, a conference committee must reconcile them. President Clinton is unlikely to sign the final bill unless there are significant changes.
D.C. Appropriations, Fiscal 1996
HR 2546, HR 3019
Bill would set aside $5 million for "scholarships" to help low-income District of Columbia students pay tuition at the public or private school of their choice, or would pay for after-school remedial and enrichment programs. The City Council would have the final say on how the money was spent. The bill would also mandate a package of school reforms, including charter schools and a standards-setting process, and create an oversight panel superseding much of the local school board's authority. (See Education Week, Feb. 7, 1996.)
After a long deadlock over the voucher issue, House passed the compromise bill 211-201 on Feb. 1. But voucher opponents have blocked it in the Senate, which failed last week for the third time to muster the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. Senators attached spending provisions for the District of Columbia to a pending continuing resolution that would fund a number of federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, without the voucher proposal.
Next: It is uncertain whether the House will accept the Senate's plan. President Clinton has indicated that he would probably veto a voucher plan if it reached his desk.
An effort to satisfy critics of the Clinton education-reform program, the bill would remove requirements that participating states submit reform plans to federal officials, allow districts to apply directly for grants if their states do not participate, and formally eliminate the National Educational Standards and Improvement Council. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1995.)
Legislation was introduced on Oct. 10.
Next: Its sponsor may attach the Goals 2000 provisions to the 1996 education appropriations bill or another piece of legislation.
HR 2202, S 1394
Both the House and Senate bills aim to reduce illegal and legal immigration;they would also restrict immigrants' eligibility for some public benefits. (See Education Week, Sept. 20, 1995.)
House Judiciary Committee approved HR 2202 on Oct. 24; Senate Judiciary Committee continued work on S 1394 last week.
Next: Floor action in the House, committee action in the Senate.
HR 1271, HR 1946, S 984
HR 1271 would require federal agencies to obtain parental approval before administering certain surveys to students. HR 1946 and S 984 would bar government and school officials from interfering with "the upbringing of a child" unless a "compelling governmental interest" is involved. (See Education Week, May 24, 1995.)
HR 1271 was approved by the House on April 4. Last fall, hearings were held in the House on HR 1946 and in the Senate on the broader topic of parental-rights issues.
Next: More House and Senate hearings are expected.
HJ Res 121, HJ Res 127
Both bills would amend the U.S. Constitution in an effort to provide greater protection for religious expression. HJ Res 127 would specifically protect student-sponsored prayer in public schools. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1995.)
HJ Res 121 was introduced Nov. 15 and HJ Res 127 on Nov. 28.
Next: The House Judiciary Committee plans to debate the proposed amendments later in the year.
Senate bill and a draft circulated by House aides would make it easier for school officials to reassign or expel disruptive disabled students, encourage mediation, require schools to set high standards for disabled students, and consolidate some programs. (See story, page 27, and Education Week, Nov. 29, 1995.)
S 1578 was introduced Feb. 27, and the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families held a hearing last week on reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act .
Next: The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee is scheduled to take up S 1578 March 20..
HR 1617, S 143
House bill would replace more than 100 vocational-education, adult-education, and job-training programs with block grants for youth programs, adult literacy, and adult job training. Senate bill would create a single block grant, replacing about 90 programs. (See Education Week, Oct. 18, 1995, and Jan. 31, 1996.)
House bill passed Sept. 19. Senate bill passed Oct. 11.
Next: A House-Senate conference has been held up by differences over the programs' structure and the ongoing budget battle that has dominated the congressional schedule.
HR 4 would end guaranteed coverage and turn welfare and Medicaid funding over to the states in block grants. States could offer benefits for children born to welfare recipients only by passing legislation. They would have the option of denying benefits to unwed teenage parents. The bill would also tighten eligibility rules for the Supplemental Security Income program for disabled children. It also includes a compromise that would allow seven states to run their school-meals programs under block grants. Also on the table are proposals from the National Governors' Association, which would revamp welfare and Medicaid along the lines of HR 4, but would give states both more flexibility and more funding safeguards. (See Education Week, Jan. 10, 1996.)
House passed HR 4 Dec. 21, 1995 and the Senate followed suit a day later. President Clinton vetoed the bill on Jan. 9.
Next: Lawmakers are considering attaching a welfare proposal to must-pass budget legislation or bringing up a separate bill. But President Clinton is likely to veto the bill if it is not significantly modified from the current versions, and division among Republicans may prevent them from coalescing around one proposal. Some welfare provisions could become part of a budget plan if Congress and the president can agree on one.