Capital Digest

October 03, 1990 5 min read

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved the nomination of David H. Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 13 to 1.

The lone opposing vote was cast by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

In three days of testimony, Mr. Souter, currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, gave little indication of how he would rule on particular school-related issues. Some civil-rights and women’s groups have opposed the nomination, citing uncertainty on Mr. Souter’s position on such issues as abortion and affirmative action.

The nomination was expected to win approval by the full Senate as early as late last week. The High Court was scheduled to open its 1990 term on Oct. 1.

The Education Department is developing strategies to realize the goals resulting from the education summit last year between President Bush and the nation’s governors, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos said last week.

In a speech marking the summit’s one-year anniversary, Mr. Cavazos returned to the site of the gathering, the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, and said an upcoming report to the President on the goals will include methods to achieve them.

Among the more promising approaches, Mr. Cavazos identified:

  • Making schools more responsive to the community by encouraging school-based management, parental choice and involvement, and accountability.

  • Increasing students’ incentive to excel by rewarding excellence and linking high-school performance to job-attainment prospects.

  • Attracting more top college students, especially minorities, to teaching.

  • Holding principals accountable for school and student performance by offering short-term contracts, with tough renewal clauses.

  • Encouraging states to realize the goals after defining “school readiness,” expanding dropout-prevention programs, developing new methods of teaching disadvantaged students, expanding workplace literacy and training workers in basic skills, and making math and science education applicable to real life.

Signing the bill reauthorizing federal vocational-education programs, President Bush last week added a pair of footnotes to his overall stamp of approval.

While offering general praise for the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, Mr. Bush said he will disregard a provision in the law that prohibits the executive branch from reviewing a national assessment administered by the Education Department’s office of educational research and improvement.

The provision allows the White House only to add supplementary comments to the final assessment report. Mr. Bush said the restriction is unconstitutional.

“It purports to preclude me from exercising my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch,” the President said, adding that he would consider the provision “severable” from the rest of the law.

Mr. Bush also suggested that a sex-equity program authorized under the law might be unconstitutional.

The program, which is targeted at women ages 14 to 28, should be implemented “only if there is a sufficiently strong justification to withstand judicial scrutiny,” according to a White House statement.

The Perkins Act, which won final Congressional approval last month, will take effect next July. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1990.)

By mid-1993 all televisions sold in the United States would have to be equipped to display closed-captioned programming, under a measure approved last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The measure, HR 4267, was approved unanimously by the committee members. It differs from earlier versions of the legislation in that it would extend by nine months the deadline by which television manufacturers must begin installing closed-caption decoders, from Oct. 1, 1992, to July 1, 1993.

The measure has won the backing of a wide range of education groups as well as organizations representing the hearing-impaired. They contend closed-captioning could be an educational tool for millions of Americans, including illiterate adults, young children learning to read, and non-English-speaking immigrants.

The bill is opposed, however, by television manufacturers. They contend the decoders would drive up the price of television sets for those who can least afford it. (See Education Week, June, 1990.)

A companion version of the measure was approved by the Senate earlier last month.

The Senate last week passed a revised bill that would limit the amount of time for commercials during children’s television programming.

Bills passed by the House and the Senate in July would limit advertising on children’s programming to 10.5 minutes an hour on weekends and 12 minutes an hour on weekdays. They also called for the Federal Communications Commission to consider a station’s efforts to serve the educational needs of children during license renewal. Both provisions remain in the new bill.

The main difference between the original bills was a Senate provision that would have provided $10 million for a new national endowment for children’s television. The revised bill trims the funding level to $6 million over two fiscal years.

The House is expected to vote on the new bill this week.

The Education Department last week awarded $15.6 million in grants to five regional drug-education centers.

The centers, in Elmhurst, Ill., Louisville, Ky., Sayville, N.Y., Norman, Okla., and Portland, Ore., will help school districts and colleges provide drug-prevention training for teachers. They will also train school officials to assess drug and alcohol problems in their schools, evaluate and distribute information about successful anti-drug programs, and help state education agencies coordinate programs.

In its final report, a bipartisan Congressional panel on health care listed six options for raising the nearly $70 million it says is needed to expand federal health benefits to the uninsured.

Last March, the U.S. Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care recommended that a public health-insurance plan replace the federal Medicaid program over the next five years. At that time, it was criticized for not specifying how the government should pay for the new benefits. (See Education Week, March 14, 1990.)

Nearly 3,000 child-labor law violations have been logged as a result of federal strike-force operations in March and June, Labor Department officials report.

The violations carry with them more than $7.3 million in fines, according to updated department estimates. While investigators are continuing to pursue cases, officials say 490 firms have been cited in connection with the June sweep and 1,450 businesses have been cited from the March operation called “Operation Child Watch” (See Education Week, March 21, 1990).

While most violations involved excessive hours being worked by 14- and 15-year-olds, investigators also found many 16- and 17-year-olds in service, retail, agricultural, and garment-industry jobs working in hazardous situations.

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 1990 edition of Education Week as Capital Digest