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In Change of Heart, Wilson To Accept Goals 2000 Funds

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After threatening for months to pull California out of Goals 2000, Gov. Pete Wilson has notified federal officials that he is ready to accept $42 million in funding under the program.

While he bowed to pressure to accept the money, which school districts can use for a variety of reform projects, Gov. Wilson offered only a conditional surrender.

In an April 19 letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, Mr. Wilson said he and Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin had agreed that California would accept the money only if the state school board could act as the panel that the Goals 2000: Educate America Act charges with overseeing a state's reform efforts.

He also asked that the federal panel that reviews California's application under the program consist of a majority of Californians.

The Goals 2000 program offers grants to states, and through them to districts, that agree to adopt high academic standards and aligned assessments. The grants are used to draft and enact reform plans. The law calls for each state's plan to be written by a committee consisting of state officials, educators, assessment experts, and representatives of teachers' groups, local school boards, and community organizations, among others.

U.S. Department of Education officials said last week that they saw no reason why they would not be able to release the money to California, although they were still drafting an official response to Mr. Wilson's letter. They said they were satisfied that advisory groups consistent with Goals 2000 requirements are in place in California.

In any case, budget legislation passed by Congress last week incorporated provisions amending the Goals 2000 law, including one that removed the language specifying the membership of state planning panels. (See story, page 19.)

Change of Heart

California plans to send $11 million of the money to local school districts and use the rest at the state level to implement a K-4 reading and mathematics initiative.

Over the past several months, Mr. Wilson, a Republican, has been openly reluctant to accept more Goals 2000 money. California accepted a $10.5 million first-year planning grant in 1994.

Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, had gone so far as to pledge that he would accept the money at some point when Mr. Wilson was out of the state long enough for the transfer to take place. (See Education Week, Dec. 6, 1995.)

Other state officials were relieved that the governor had a change of heart.

"We have long believed these funds come to local districts with the necessary local control," said Rebecca Sargent, the president of the California School Boards Association. "Thankfully, the governor has reached the same conclusion."

In his letter to Secretary Riley, Gov. Wilson said he still had reservations about Goals 2000, but had come to believe that many of his fears were unwarranted.

"I know we have a fundamental disagreement as to the propriety of federal involvement in public education," Mr. Wilson wrote. "I am grateful for your courtesy and personal attention in providing me assurance that neither statute, regulations, nor federal policy will be involved to interfere with the state's exercise of its fundamental responsibility to conduct public education in California."

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