News in Brief
House Panel Approves School Lunch Measure
The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved legislation
last week that would simplify enrollment for children eligible for
federal free or reduced-price lunches.
Called the Child Nutrition Improvement and Integrity Act, the measure would reauthorize the federal school meals programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. The committee passed the bill by unanimous voice vote on March 10.
The bill would streamline the certification process required for participation in the school meals programs by allowing parents to submit a single application for multiple children and by allowing such certifications to be valid for one year. It would also add three states to the list of those eligible, because of high poverty, for a summer food pilot project for children. And it would increase the reimbursement rate for the meals programs for schools in areas of extreme poverty.
In addition, the House bill includes a provision proposed by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., aimed at reducing the stigma associated with receiving free and reduced-price meals by helping schools make technological changes such as automated meal-card systems that keep students' financial status confidential.
Struck from the bill was an amendment offered by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, that would have given the secretary of agriculture authority to regulate junk-food sales in schools. Many states have already either passed or proposed legislation to limit such foods in schools.
The nutrition bill now goes to the floor of the House.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Education Dept. Launches 'No Child' Resource Page
The Department of Education wants people to understand the complicated No Child Left Behind Act, so it is making it even easier to get online information on the sweeping changes called for in the law.
Last week, the department added a page to its Web site that provides links to more than 50 policy letters explaining different aspects of the law.
"The public can now have access to the guidance the Department of Education is providing their states, and can learn from similar issues in other states," Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a statement.
Among other information, the Web page includes links to states' accountability plans, memos to chief state school officers on determining "adequate yearly progress," information about highly qualified teachers, and guidance on handling accountability issues for students with disabilities.
—Michelle R. Davis
E.D. Gave $6.8 Million To Faith-Based Groups
The Department of Education gave $6.8 million to faith-based organizations in fiscal 2003, and officials expect the amount to increase in the current fiscal year as more organizations apply for such money.
According to data released by the White House last week, the Education Department awarded faith-based organizations about 5 percent of its $134.7 million in funding from competitive-grant programs.
John Porter, the department's director of faith-based and community initiatives, said that amount was conservative because it counted only federal programs, not grant money awarded to states by the department that could have ended up going to faith-based organizations.
He said the amount exceeded the department's expectations. Department officials had anticipated that 2 percent of its competitive-grant funds would go to faith- based groups, based on initial audits, Mr. Porter said.
The figures show that President Bush's effort to clear the way for religiously affiliated organizations to compete for federal funds to provide community services is making headway, he added.
"The best thing about this is that there is more competition to provide these services," Mr. Porter said. "These groups are rooted in the community and are able to meet the needs of children. We are not trying to push faith-based groups for the sake of faith-based groups."
Religious organizations can apply along with other groups for Education Department grants for such purposes as after-school programs, parental information-and-resource centers, and community and technology centers, he said.
Vol. 23, Issue 27, Page 48