News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Ed. Dept. Announces 'Reading First' Panel
More than 70 experts from the fields of reading research and instruction, psychology, management and accountability, special education, and other relevant fields will serve as reviewers of state applications for federal grants under the Reading First initiative, the Department of Education announced last week.
The panelists will scrutinize applications for $900 million to determine which state proposals meet the requirements of the program outlined in the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.
Reading First aims to improve reading instruction and achievement, particularly for students at risk of falling behind in learning to read, through the use of scientifically based strategies and programs. ("States Unclear on ESEA Rules About Reading," May 1, 2002.)
The first round of grants will be distributed beginning July 1.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige described the panel as the most experienced group of reading researchers and education practitioners in the country.
Some experts, however, said that psychologists and special education experts are overrepresented on the panel, while reading teachers and others with more classroom experience represent only a small portion of the members.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Student-Loan Hearing Stirs Partisan Debate
The political face of college financial aid was on full display earlier this month, when Capitol Hill Democrats and Republicans traded barbs at a brief but acrimonious hearing on student-loan consolidation.
Democrats called the May 9 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to highlight what they described as a Bush administration proposal to eliminate students' ability to consolidate loans at a fixed interest rate.
White House budget officials said the idea—reported in the press early this month—was only an option, and Deputy Secretary of Education William D. Hansen, who appeared before the committee, said the administration was not considering it. ("Bush Proposal Stokes Student-Aid Spat With Democrats," May 8, 2002.)
But the Democrats' decision to stage a hearing drew a fiery response from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "This is a specious hearing about an issue that doesn't even exist," he said.
The Democrats didn't back down, however.
"We're talking about the cost of education, and it's obviously hit a raw nerve," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee. "We're not going to let go of it."
Vol. 21, Issue 37, Page 26