News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
House Panel OKs Bilingual Education Bill
The House Education and the Workforce Committee last Thursday passed a measure that would turn federal funding for bilingual education into block grants and give states more flexibility in the programs they offer.
The proposed English Language Fluency Act, HR 3892, which passed 22-17 along party lines, would also allow parents of non-English-speaking children to choose the type of language instruction their children receive under federally funded programs. ("On Capitol Hill, Congress Takes Up Bilingual Ed. Debate," May 27, 1998.)
A day before the vote, Rep. Bill Goodling, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the committee, praised the June 2 vote in California to effectively abolish most bilingual programs in the state's public schools.
"California is on the right track," he said in a June 3 statement. "We are moving forward to return authority to the states for reform of bilingual education. By and large, federal bilingual programs have failed to equip students with the literacy skills they need."
By a 23-17 vote, the committee also passed a technical amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to clarify that the Department of Education may withhold only a minimal amount of federal funding if a state chooses not to educate prisoners ages 18 to 21 who qualify for special education services. ("Administrators Wait as Feds Postpone IDEA Regulations," June 3, 1998.)
By voice vote, the committee also approved resolutions urging efforts to raise federal special education spending, condemning social promotions in schools, and citing the importance of fathers in the raising and development of children.
Education Department Seeking ESEA Comments
The Department of Education is seeking comments on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and programs under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in advance of their upcoming congressional reauthorizations.
Both the ESEA, the main federal K-12 education law, and Goals 2000 are due to be reauthorized by Congress next year. The ESEA currently supports $12 billion in school programs a year, including Title I aid to schools with high numbers of students from low-income families.
In a notice in the June 2 Federal Register, the department asks for feedback on the ESEA and Goals 2000 provisions related to, among other topics, comprehensive state and local school reform, strategies for meeting the needs of at-risk children, and support for the use of technology to aid state and local education reform efforts. The department will also hold regional meetings on the ESEA next month.
Written comments are due July 17 and should be sent to Judith Johnson, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, DC 20202-6132; or by e-mail to Frances_Shadburn@ed.gov. For more information, call Ms. Shadburn at (202) 401-0113.
Vol. 17, Issue 39, Page 24