Here’s what some prominent think tanks and education groups are recommending to President Bush and the new Congress:
Cato Institute, “Cato Handbook for Congress”: “Congress should get out of the education business and return what it spends to taxpayers in the form of a tax cut.”
Synopsis: Abolish the Department of Education. The institute argues that the federal role in education is unconstitutional.
Center on Education Policy, “An Education Agenda for the Congress and the New Administration” (requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader): "[T]his is the time to reach bipartisan agreement on the federal role in education. Each side will have to compromise the Democrats will have to agree to merge many current programs, and the Republicans will have to agree to put aside tuition vouchers for private schools.”
Synopsis: Demand greater accountability for federal funds, but not just more testing; double Title I funding; consolidate Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs into fewer categories; reject vouchers, but call for a National Forum on Public and Private Education to explore issues of mutual concern.
Democratic Leadership Council/Progressive Policy Institute, “10 Big Ideas: A New Democrat Agenda for Governing”: “A consensus about the need for additional investment and the need to use federal dollars to leverage results-based accountability at the local level sets up a potential ‘grand bargain’ on ESEA reauthorization.”
Synopsis: Consolidate ESEA programs into five performance-based grants in exchange for more accountability; double ESEA spending; increase targeting to disadvantaged schools and students.
Education Leaders Council,“From Good Intentions to Good Results: Transforming Federal Education Policy” (requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader): “Instead of emphasizing formulas, procedures, inputs, rules, and compliance, federal policy should be obsessed with how much and how well our children are learning, particularly the least advantaged and most vulnerable among them.”
Synopsis: Make Title I aid “portable,” following low-income children to their schools of choice; consolidate ESEA programs in exchange for improved student performance; allow states further flexibility in return for entering a performance contract with the Education Department; move Head Start to the Education Department.
Heritage Foundation, “Priorities for the President”: “Although education is and always will be a state and local responsibility, the federal government can plan an important role in motivating states and local communities to innovate and implement education reforms that will boost academic achievement.”
Synopsis: Make Title I aid “portable"; consolidate ESEA programs in exchange for accountability; offer states broader flexibility in return for entering into “contracts” with the Education Department; create independent agency for education research.
National Education Association, “The Opportunity To Excel”: "[E]nsuring that every child has a qualified, caring teacher in a classroom environment that maximizes learning should be the top priority for the Bush administration and the 107th Congress.”
Synopsis: Fully fund Title I (nearly tripling spending); create initiative giving states flexible aid to help poor-performing schools; provide $3 billion a year for teacher-quality programs; offer assistance for school modernization; help states provide universal preschool; provide federal funding to pay 40 percent of special education costs.
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, “Education 2001: Getting the Job Done”: “Fund children, not institutions. ... By building all its education programs atop this principle, the federal government will also foster the growth of innovative schools and diverse educational arrangements, such as charter schools, which are hobbled and weakened by current funding formulas.”
Synopsis: Consolidate ESEA programs into six separate state grants while demanding more accountability. Double Title I expenditures and make the money “portable.” Allow states further flexibility in exchange for entering a performance agreement with the Education Department. Create a new, independent education research agency.
A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as A Paper for Every Position