For the past several years, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., has pushed one message: Fully fund 40 percent of districts' excess special education costs before creating new federal education programs.
Now, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee has put his goal into writing. Last week, on a voice vote, the committee approved H. Con. Res. 84, a nonbinding resolution that urges House appropriators to pass over new programs proposed by President Clinton and others, and instead put new dollars into state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The original version of the IDEA, passed in 1975, assured districts that the federal government would pick up 40 percent of the excess costs associated with educating students with disabilities.
But despite hefty increases in the last three federal education budgets, Congress has never contributed more than 12 percent of the local costs.
The Washington PR machine was in high gear last week as Republican leaders and President Clinton all sought to draw attention to a new education law.
On April 27, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., went to Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, Va., to lead a special "enrollment" ceremony for the recently passed Education Flexibility Partnership Act, or "Ed-Flex." The event--which showcases a bill before it is sent to the White House--was broadcast live over the Internet.
Two days later, President Clinton held a Rose Garden ceremony to sign the legislation. Ed-Flex provides states and school districts flexibility in meeting certain federal education requirements; the new law expands a pilot program in 12 states to make all 50 states and the District of Columbia eligible. ("Conferees Agree on Revised 'Ed-Flex'," April 21, 1999.)
Despite the attention, most observers say the Ed-Flex action is only minor in comparison with the pending debate over reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
--Joetta L. Sack & Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 18, Issue 34, Page 22