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Published in Print: April 28, 1999, as Federal File

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Seeking unity

Hoping to present a united front of moderates, the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership brought together four education leaders last week to discuss the upcoming Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Rep. Bill Goodling, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., the K-12 subcommittee chairman, hosted an amicable exchange with Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and Bob Chase, the president of the National Education Association. The participants answered the question posed, "Can there be a bipartisan education agenda in the 106th Congress?" with a resounding yes.

But while they agreed on two goals--more flexibility for local districts in spending federal money and no federally funded vouchers--they were short on specifics. And they couldn't keep their partisan leanings masked for very long.

Mr. Riley emphasized the need to continue the Clinton administration's $1.2 billion class-size-reduction program, while Mr. Chase called for federal funding for school construction, two initiatives that are viewed skeptically by many Republicans.

Mr. Goodling argued that Mr. Clinton's initiatives need to allow more local control of federal money. "Unfortunately, they're well-intentioned but are directed entirely at the federal level," he said.

The Republican Main Street Partnership, based in Arlington, Va., provides policy guidance and publicity for Republican moderates and organizations.

Bennett's kind of town

The Chicago public schools have finally made a good impression on former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.

Twelve years ago, he declared the 430,000-student district to be "the worst in the nation." But after a visit last week, he praised the city's current education leaders for turning around its troubled schools.

"There is no major urban school system in the United States right now that has a more ambitious plan, better leadership, and a greater sense of accountability," Mr. Bennett said.

The House education committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing in Chicago last week to discuss the district's reforms. Republicans used the opportunity to push for more local control of federal funds.

--Joetta L. Sack federal@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 23

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