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Published in Print: April 14, 1999, as Education Groups Unite in Opposition to Divided ESEA

Education Groups Unite in Opposition to Divided ESEA

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Major education groups and some state officials are uniting in opposition to House Republicans' plans to divide the reauthorization legislation for the nation's main K-12 law into several separate bills.

The chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., has indicated in recent months that he would like to move the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization in multiple pieces rather than as one huge bill.

The unfolding plan, which still is not final, envisions writing a separate bill for Title I of the ESEA, which focuses on high-poverty students, and another bill focusing on teacher-quality provisions, including the Eisenhower professional-development program and related teacher efforts, according to Jay Diskey, a spokesman for the Republicans on the committee. Beyond those, one or more other bills could cover the rest of the programs under the ESEA, he said.

Already, the approach is prompting considerable concern in some quarters.

"The interconnection between the titles of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is vital to its effectiveness," a coalition of education groups, including the nation's two dominant teachers' unions, argued in a March 25 letter to Mr. Goodling. "It will be difficult, if not impossible, to retain and expand [new] mechanisms for program integration and accountability in a fragmented reauthorization process."

The groups also expressed concern that, under Mr. Goodling's approach, several sections of the ESEA might not be reauthorized.

Among the 21 signers of the letter were the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and officials of the state education agencies in California, New York, and Texas.

The Clinton administration and House Democrats on the education committee have also expressed their dismay at Mr. Goodling's plan.

But Mr. Diskey argued that having several bills would allow more time to discuss the various components of the complex ESEA, "rather than having one big debate on one big bill."

The Senate education committee, however, will not be following suit.

"We're going to address [the ESEA] as a single piece of legislation," said Joe Karpinski, the spokesman for the Republicans on that panel.

Meanwhile, the administration still has not come forward with its proposal for reauthorizing the ESEA.

Julie Green, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley's press secretary, indicated last week that the administration intends to have legislative language on the ESEA reauthorization delivered to Capitol Hill next week.

Early Details

Some preliminary details of the Clinton administration's upcoming plan are already beginning to generate disagreement.

For instance, the administration's ESEA proposal would seek to consolidate Goals 2000, Title VI block grants, and Eisenhower professional-development grants into a new program that would emphasize accountability.

Ms. Green said the Department of Education's intention is to make the program half competitive grants and half based on a formula.

Jeff Simering, the legislative director for the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts, said his group opposes the plan. "School districts need a predictable source of revenue," and a competitive process tends to produce uneven funding, he said.

Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, said his group opposed an earlier proposal to make the new hybrid only a competitive-grant program. He was not available to comment on the department's split competitive/formula-grant proposal.

Vol. 18, Issue 31, Page 22

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