Already behind schedule, the Senate's education spending bill suffered another setback when appropriations subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter underwent emergency heart-bypass surgery June 1.
The 68-year-old Pennsylvania Republican, who chairs the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, was expected to be released from a hospital in Philadelphia late last week. But his staff was unsure of when he would return to Washington.
The spending bill for the departments of Labor, HHS, and Education is usually one of the last to be completed before the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. This year, its progress has been further stymied by the lack of a budget-resolution agreement between the House and Senate.
Because the two chambers missed an April 15 target for releasing a resolution, appropriators decided to start their work without the nonbinding blueprint. The House Appropriations Committee plans to release its education spending bill next week, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Morra.
Two months ago, the members of the Chicago-based National People's Action didn't like anything they heard from Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and his staff. This month, they're more satisfied.
On April 27, 500 members of the network of inner-city community groups streamed into the lobby of the Department of Education headquarters to protest the secretary's decision to decline for the third straight year their request to speak at their convention.
The protest worked. That day, the group's leaders met with Mr. Riley's top deputy. (Mr. Riley was out of town.) They also landed an appointment for a meeting with the secretary on June 2. After that meeting, the group's leaders said they were happy with Mr. Riley's pledge to visit dilapidated schools that community activists, not city leaders, select, as well as his promise that his deputies will investigate whether districts are ignoring Title I rules requiring parental input.
The secretary also promised to speak at National People's Action annual conference next year, said Marlene B. Rodriguez, a community organizer from Chicago who attended the meeting. The group won the concessions because of its activism in April, she added. "It's sad to say that that's what it takes to be heard," Ms. Rodriguez said.
--JOETTA L. SACK & DAVID J. HOFF
Vol. 17, Issue 40, Page 33