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Va. Governor Victorious in Rejecting Goals 2000

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A partisan battle in Virginia over federal education funding ended last week with a victory for Gov. George F. Allen. Legislators were unable to override his veto of the state's participation in the Clinton administration's Goals 2000 program.

By a vote of 57-43, the House fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the Republican governor's April 10 veto of Goals 2000 language included in the new state budget.

Democratic leaders argued that Mr. Allen, who enjoys the power to veto line items in the state budget, overstepped his authority in striking the Goals 2000 language, which did not appropriate any money.

But Mr. Allen insisted that his action was legal and that embracing Goals 2000 would have given the federal government too much leverage over Virginia education policy.

"Our children's future is more important than a few pennies per child in federal funding accompanied by dictates," the governor wrote in his veto message. "Now is no time to turn control of our reforms over to federal bureaucrats and politicians who are wedded to the failed outcome-based education model."

The language stricken from the budget by the governor would have required the state schools superintendent to apply for the $6.7 million in funding through the Goals 2000: Educate America Act if 85 of the state's 134 school districts expressed interest. By late last week, school boards in 87 districts had passed resolutions in favor of the federal program.

The Goals 2000 program provides states with money to help them draft and implement school-improvement plans centered on challenging academic standards and accompanying assessments.

In Virginia, the money would have paid for teacher training, curriculum development, and instructional materials geared to the state's new learning standards in core subject areas.

The state's $32 billion two-year budget includes $1.5 million for such standards-related activities and $12 million to develop a new test, said David Blount, a governmental-relations officer for the Virginia School Boards Administration.

Seizing Control

Delegate S. Vance Wilkins Jr., the Republican House minority leader, said he did not believe the Goals 2000 funding would have been "worth the hassle."

"The general feeling is that the federal government has not much business in education anyway, though they are all over the place," Mr. Wilkins said.

Delegate C. Richard Cranwell, a Democratic leader, said he believed there was a "significant likelihood" that some school districts might sue the governor over the legality of his veto.

"It is really tragic that we have gotten so emotionalized in America that people actually believe Goals 2000 is a part of some plot by the federal government to seize control of education," Mr. Cranwell said. "It's hard to fathom how someone could be that illogical."

Virginia educators are going to need training and materials if they are to help students meet tougher standards, observed Stuart Gibson, a member of the school board in Fairfax County.

"I'm disappointed that the governor didn't trust locally elected school boards to do the right thing," Mr. Gibson said.

Because it is relatively wealthy, the suburban Washington district receives only about one quarter of every dollar appropriated for educational purposes, he said.

"They have imposed these new standards without providing us the resources to implement them," Mr. Gibson said, "and then they expect us to begin testing. I'm not a cynic, but I wonder if they're setting us up to fail."

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