Published Online: June 11, 1997


Federal File

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Changing the grade

In Washington, success is usually defined by how many laws you can persuade Congress to pass.

By that measure, the Clinton administration's education team would get an A for its first two years, and a less satisfactory mark for the subsequent two years.

But three officials who worked in the Department of Education during President Clinton's first term want to change that perception.

"The new way of doing business" at the department is to "marry legislation and a major public campaign to address pressing education issues," writes Marshall S. Smith, currently the acting deputy secretary of education, and two of his aides in the June issue of Educational Policy.

"The legislation can provide funding and a framework. The public campaign can mobilize partnerships, share material and information, and rely on the bully pulpit to generate greater awareness and support," Mr. Smith, the undersecretary of education during Mr. Clinton's first term, writes in the scholarly article co-authored with Jessica Levin and Joanne E. Cianci.

One example, the authors say, is the administration's cobbled-together plan for increasing technology use in schools.

Much of the effort relied on the "bully pulpit" approach, with speeches and NetDay appearances by the president, vice president, and secretary of education. But the administration also lobbied Congress to give the Federal Communications Commission the power to force telephone companies to give schools discounts and then persuaded the FCC to require phone rate reductions of up to 90 percent.

Another prong will be passage of a federal budget that includes $2 billion over five years for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, which was created in Mr. Clinton's first two years on the job, but still lacks funding.

In a footnote, the authors says the approach is continuing in the early months of the second term.

The president's 10-point "Call to Action" for education requires Congress to pass only a few laws. And, Mr. Clinton has consistently pitched his national testing plan--the first item on the list--in speeches and town meetings since unveiling it in February.


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