Published Online: September 16, 1998
Published in Print: September 16, 1998, as Federal File

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Dollars debate

A House bill that would block-grant funding for 31 federal education programs has already been well debated on Capitol Hill. Now it's also undergone scrutiny in a different sort of Washington forum.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, recently set its rhetorical sights on the proposed Dollars to the Classroom Act, HR 3248, which may come up for a vote on the House floor later this week.

The legislation targets programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is scheduled for reauthorization next year. Many Washington lobbyists and education groups have already begun writing proposals and lobbying for changes to the ESEA. ("GOP Report Underscores Two Views on Federal Role," Aug. 5, 1998.)

Lisa Graham Keegan, the state schools chief in Arizona and one of the participants in the Heritage debate late last month, said the bill, if passed, would represent the first time that states could break away from the federally mandated pet priorities of some members of Congress.

The 31 targets "are good victims," she contended, adding that the extra funding could help Arizona home in on its own priorities: high academic standards, school choice, and parental involvement.

But Jane Hannaway, the director of the Education Policy Center at the Urban Institute, another Washington think tank, countered that evidence shows that disadvantaged students still need extra services--and that targeted federal aid is the best way to make sure their needs are met. Further, Ms. Hannaway pointed out, the measure would mean that Arizona and other states would be able to retain only up to 5 percent of the block grant to use for statewide standards and other initiatives.

Ms. Keegan replied that her state already had ample funding for administration and wouldn't mind a mandate to send 95 percent of federal dollars to districts. "For me, that is a great policy," she said.

Staying put

President Clinton has nominated Mike Sullivan, the former governor of Wyoming, for the much-coveted post of ambassador to Ireland.

The nomination puts to rest months of speculation that Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley was a front-runner for the nomination. Mr. Riley's staff has repeatedly denied the rumors.

Mr. Sullivan's nomination is still awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

--JOETTA L. SACK federal@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 22

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