News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
GOP Bill Would Restructure Clinton Class-Size Initiative
The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved a measure to restructure President Clinton's class-size-reduction plan on June 30, the day before $1.2 billion in fiscal 1999 funding for the program was mailed to states.
The House committee approved HR 1995, the GOP's Teacher Empowerment Act, by a 27-19 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in voting for it. The bill would allow states to use the money to hire a broader range of teachers than under the president's plan and would allow spending on professional development, certification, and other activities.
On a party-line, 23-21 vote, the members rejected a Democratic substitute bill that would have continued Mr. Clinton's plan, which is designed to provide money for districts to hire 100,000 new teachers in grades 1-3 over seven years. The program was launched this year with funding to hire 30,000 new teachers.
The GOP bill is strongly opposed by the teachers' unions and other education groups because they say it would dilute the focus on hiring new teachers. But some moderate Democrats on the House panel said they would consider supporting it in exchange for concessions from the Republican leadership on accountability and other issues.
--Joetta L. Sack
New Higher Ed. Chief Nominated
President Clinton has nominated A. Lee Fritschler, the former head of a small, liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, to serve as the Department of Education's new assistant secretary for postsecondary education.
Mr. Fritschler was the president of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., from 1987 until his retirement last month. Before that, he was the director of the Center for Public Policy Education at the Brookings Institution in Washington from 1981 to 1987. He has already begun working at the department as a consultant while he awaits action by the Senate on his nomination.
If confirmed, he will replace David A. Longanecker, who served as the department's senior higher education official from 1993 until stepping down this year. The assistant secretary formulates federal higher education policy and coordinates programs for assistance to postsecondary institutions and students pursuing a postsecondary education.
--Erik W. Robelen
Bilingual Ed. Director Leaves
Delia Pompa, the director of the Department of Education's office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs, left that post late last week to head a leading advocacy group in bilingual education.
Ms. Pompa is now the executive director of the National Association of Bilingual Education, a 3,760-member group based in Washington. She replaces James Lyons, the longtime head of NABE who retired earlier this year.
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley praised Ms. Pompa's four years of service with the department.
"Delia has worked diligently to improve the quality of bilingual education programs nationwide, to recruit and train high-quality teachers in the field, to reduce the dropout rate among Hispanic students, and to ensure that students whose first language is not English learn to high standards," Mr. Riley said in a written statement.
The Education Department had no word on Ms. Pompa's replacement last week.
--Joetta L. Sack
Department Issues Guidebook
The Education Department has released a guidebook designed to help schools end social promotion.
Taking Responsibility for Ending Social Promotion: Strategies for State and Local Leaders advises schools that effective classroom instruction is the key to avoiding advancing students not yet academically ready to move to the next grade.
Other recommended strategies include reducing class sizes, setting clear performance objectives and communicating those objectives to students and their families, providing professional development that focuses on deepening teachers' knowledge of academic content, and providing better instructional strategies.
The report was ordered by President Clinton, who made reducing social promotion a top priority in his State of the Union Address this year.
The report is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/socialpromotion/. Free copies may also be ordered by calling (877) 4ED-PUBS (433-7827).
--Joetta L. Sack
Presidential Scholars Honored
The 141 high school seniors named as presidential scholars for 1999 were honored in Washington for their outstanding accomplishments in academics and the arts.
Among the events the students attended from June 23 through June 26 were a ceremony with President Clinton, a salute at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a teacher-recognition luncheon where the young scholars introduced their most influential teachers.
Most of the presidential scholars were selected based on their overall academic achievement, as reflected on SAT and ACT scores, essays and school transcripts, and demonstrated leadership, strong character, and commitment to high ideals. Twenty were selected based on their demonstrated artistic ability. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars makes the final selection of students.
--Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 18, Issue 42, Page 26