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Published in Print: March 24, 1999, as Chiefs' Group Wants Congress To Know Value of State Role in Federal Programs

Chiefs' Group Wants Congress To Know Value of State Role in Federal Programs

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State education leaders went to Capitol Hill last week to urge Congress to keep their agencies in the federal budget loop.

The effort comes as some districts and school administrators are calling for changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would allow most funding under the law to go directly to school districts, circumventing state education departments.

Congress needs to know that the state agencies matter and that they use federal funding for worthwhile purposes, Nancy Keenan, Montana's superintendent of public instruction, told members of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She spoke hours before the officials made their way to the Capitol for meetings with legislators and their staffs.

"[Lawmakers] seem to have this mindset that the [federal education] dollars must go straight to the local level," Ms. Keenan said. "They think of us as a big bureaucracy."

Chiefs' Priorities

CCSSO members convened here March 14-16 for their annual federal legislative conference to discuss the group's priorities. Those items include clustering federal dollars to support three goals: creating state and local standards, assessments, and accountability systems; accelerating achievement for students identified as needing additional resources; and enhancing quality in the classroom through professional development, technical assistance, and other efforts.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Moses echoed Ms. Keenan's sentiments. "Members [of Congress] are looking for us as state officials to identify the functions of state agencies," he said.

Mr. Moses also said that state leaders should convey the core goals of their education agendas in ways that will allow members of Congress to better understand their needs.

The Council of the Great City Schools and the American Association of School Administrators are among the groups advocating that most federal money authorized under the ESEA bypass state agencies. They are seeking changes this year as part of the ESEA reauthorization.

Last year, many Republicans backed a failed plan that would have combined 31 categorical K-12 programs into a single federal block grant. The move, they said, would send more dollars directly to schools.

This year, Sen. Christopher S. Bond and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, two Republicans from Missouri, have introduced the Direct Check for Education Act in their respective chambers.

The proposed measure would consolidate funding for six programs in the Department of Education, including the Goals 2000 school reform program, into a "direct check" for local districts.

The bills--S 52 and HR 95--had not been scheduled for committee consideration as of last week.

Vol. 18, Issue 28, Page 21

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