News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Clinton Vetoes GOP-Backed Savings-Account Measure
President Clinton has vetoed the education-savings-accounts bill that is a cornerstone of the GOP education agenda.
The measure, which was opposed by the two national teachers' unions and other groups representing public school educators, would have allowed tax-free savings accounts for a wide variety of education-related expenses.
"The bill would divert limited federal resources away from public schools by spending more than $3 billion on tax benefits that would do virtually nothing for average families and would disproportionately benefit the most affluent families," Mr. Clinton said in a letter to the House after his July 21 veto.
The measure, sponsored by Sens. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., had gained votes from some Democrats, but not enough to override the veto. ("House Passes Education-Savings Bill, But Veto Promised," June 24, 1998.)
Sen. Coverdell said in a prepared statement that "President Clinton has denied millions of families help through his attempt to avoid offending the Washington-based unions."
School Safety Conference Set
The White House will host a conference on school safety on Oct. 15 in response to continued concerns about violence and disruption in American schools.
In an address July 20 at the American Federation of Teachers' convention in New Orleans, President Clinton announced the conference and said it would bring together educators, law-enforcement experts, and families touched by violence "to find new solutions to this profound challenge."
The gathering would be the first of its kind, the president said. White House officials plan at that time to release the first of what they say will be an annual report on school safety.
Anti-Drug Campaign Launched
An unprecedented national campaign of paid advertising, launched by the Clinton administration this summer, will try to help curtail adolescent drug use.
The planned five-year, $2 billion campaign, for which Congress has approved initial funding of $195 million in the current fiscal year, kicked off July 9 with a media blitz on every major television network, reaching an estimated 85 percent of the country's TV viewers.
The announcements will be targeted. Spots aimed at young children, for example, will run during cartoon shows. The campaign will also be tailored to address drug-use trends in different regions of the country.
Some of the advertisements had already been test-marketed as part of a pilot project that began in a dozen cities last January. Since the project started, calls to substance-abuse hot lines have risen 300 percent in the participating cities, according to the White House.
AmeriCorps Funds Clear Senate
By a voice vote, the Senate has signed on to spend $425.5 million to maintain the AmeriCorps program as part of a fiscal 1999 spending bill passed July 17.
But reconciling the House and Senate versions of the measure may be messy. The House voted 259-164 last Wednesday to cut funding for the national service program in its version of the Veterans' Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and independent-agencies appropriations bill--which includes AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps pays college tuition or helps repay student loans for young people who agree to complete a program of community service. Opponents contend the government is paying people to volunteer. The administration has asked that the program receive $499.5 million in fiscal 1999, down from $546 million this year.
Panel Passes Head Start Bill
The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved a Head Start bill last Wednesday that emphasizes early reading and vocabulary skills for children and would require most teachers working in the federal preschool program to have a two- or four-year degree in early-childhood education by 2003.
The bill, passed on a 23-18 party-line vote, would reauthorize the program for five years and allow Head Start centers to spend more money on efforts to improve quality, including staff training. Currently, 25 percent of new funding is spent on quality improvement, while the rest is targeted to serving more children--a Clinton administration priority. The formula in the House bill would set aside 65 percent of new funds for such improvements. A related bill passed the full Senate.
Some key amendments to the House bill are opposed by the National Head Start Association and other advocates, including language that would require single mothers to establish paternity in order to participate in Head Start.
OCR Clarifies Title IX Standard
The Department of Education's office for civil rights has clarified the Title IX standard it will use to resolve scholarship-discrimination complaints in college sports and address such bias nationally.
OCR policy, in place since 1979, measures colleges' compliance with Title IX in the awarding of athletic scholarships by whether "proportionately equal amounts of financial assistance are available to men's and women's athletic programs."
In a statement sent July 23 to 25 colleges and universities that the Washington-based National Women's Law Center has cited as discriminating against female athletes, the OCR said scholarship spending should be within 1 percent of a school's player rates for each sex. So, if 40 percent of a school's varsity athletes are women, about 40 percent of its scholarship money should go to women. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans sex bias in education programs receiving federal aid.
Vol. 17, Issue 43, Page 34