Published Online: February 18, 1998

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Charter Questions

In the last meeting of the Senate Budget Task Force he chairs, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., got an earful of proposals to ponder as he prepared to write his recommendations for the fiscal 1999 federal budget.

While most of the education reform experts at the Feb. 11 session agreed that less money should be spent at the federal level, they weren't in agreement on whether to send it to states, districts, or individual schools.

Competition through school choice--including vouchers and charter schools--is showing positive results, and such programs should be expanded, several panelists invited by task force Republicans said.

But Henry R. Marockie, the West Virginia superintendent of schools who spoke at the invitation of Democrats, said his state had reformed its public schools so well that, so far, "not one single charter school application has been made."

Mr. Marockie did not note, however, that West Virginia does not have a charter school law and does not allow charter proposals.

The task force, created last year to examine federal education spending, has held six hearings.

A Matter Of Timing

Lynne V. Cheney, a former director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has picked an unusual time to criticize federal funding for the school-to-work program.

Lynne V. Cheney

Ms. Cheney, now a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, testified against the program before a House subcommittee this month and published her testimony in The New York Times. She also joined speakers from the Family Research Council and Texas Public Policy Foundation in criticizing the school-to-work program at a forum held at the Heritage Foundation.

Meanwhile, President Clinton released a fiscal 1999 budget on Feb. 2 that would actually decrease funding for the program. The departments of Education and Labor each would spend $125 million on the school-to-work program in fiscal 1999. That's $75 million less per agency than the initiative received for the current fiscal year. The plan is to phase out the federal role in school-to-work efforts by 2002.

--JOETTA L. SACK & MARY ANN ZEHR

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