Congress and the White House can expect a barrage of phone calls and e-mails this Friday urging an increase in federal spending on education.
The occasion is the 1999 National Contact Washington Day for Education Funding, organized by the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of K-12 and higher education groups that lobbies for federal aid. The Sept. 10 effort comes as the House and Senate appropriations committees are expected to take up spending bills for education and related programs; new spending laws are due by Oct. 1, when the federal fiscal year begins. Under strict budget caps that Congress negotiated with President Clinton in 1997, education spending could undergo significant cuts from last year.
A special World Wide Web page being set up by the CEF is designed to ease access to Capitol Hill and the White House. It will be available through the group's World Wide Web site at www.cef.org.
A small group of Senate Republicans has unveiled a teacher-quality bill that would offer substantial flexibility for school districts in spending about $2 billion in federal money, including the aid President Clinton wants earmarked for class-size reduction.
The bill is similar to House legislation called the Teacher Empowerment Act, HR 1995, that was approved in July but drew a veto threat from the president.
"We think it's very important to give the local school districts the flexibility" to use federal teacher-hiring dollars for teacher quality, Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, said during an August press conference. Other co-sponsors include Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
An hour after Sen. Gregg's news conference, Senate Democrats held their own press event. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the education committee, argued that the Republican bill would create a "false choice" between professional development and class-size reduction. He added that the bill lacked sufficient accountability measures.
Notably, Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, the Republican chairman of the education committee, is not a co- sponsor.
—Erik W. Robelen [email protected]
Vol. 19, Issue 1, Page 26