Congress Passes 'Ed-Flex' by Wide Margin
Federal lawmakers last week overwhelmingly approved the first education legislation of the 106th Congress, paving the way for an expected signature by President Clinton.
On April 21, the House passed the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, dubbed "Ed-Flex," by a vote of 368-57; the Senate voted 98-1 in favor the same day.
Ed-Flex is by most accounts a modest measure that offers states and school districts flexibility in meeting certain federal requirements in return for heightened accountability. The legislation expands a pilot program in 12 states to make all states and the District of Columbia eligible.
The bipartisan approval did not come without significant partisan tensions. Senate Democrats sought unsuccessfully to attach a host of their education priorities to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., responded by adding an amendment--ultimately scrapped by the House-Senate conference committee that reconciled the two chambers' versions of the bill--that would have allowed the $1.2 billion set aside for the president's class-size-reduction plan to also be used for special education. Democrats strongly opposed the measure. ("Conferees Agree on Revised 'Ed-Flex' Bill," April 21, 1999.)
Some House Democrats remained opposed to the final bill even without the Lott amendment. They argued that it fails to include sufficient accountability measures or ensure that federal aid reaches the neediest students.
--Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 24