E.D. Legislation Proposes Flexibility for Research Office

By Robert Rothman — September 11, 1991 2 min read

Washington--The Education Department has sent to the Congress a plan for reauthorizing its research office that affirms its goal of providing more flexibility in research funding and calls for few changes in the agency’s structure.

But the proposal, which was largely drawn up before the current assistant secretary of education for educational research and improvement, Diane S. Ravitch, took office, is likely to undergo changes as it works its way through the Congressional reauthorization process.

As a signal of the type of revisions the Congress may impose, the House Subcommittee on Select Education last week released a report calling for “a greatly expanded federal research, development, and dissemination system.”

The report, “Education 2005: The Role of Rosearch and Development in an Overwhelming Campaign for Education in America,” contains 21 recommendations for revamping the research office, most of which had already been outlined by the panel’s chairman, Representative Major R. Owens, in a speech last April. (See Education Week, April 17, 1991 .)

The proposals outlined in the subcommittee’s report include substantially increasing the agency’s funding, setting up an independent policymaking body that would oversee the research office, and creating a National Institute for the Education of At-Risk Students.

“If properly utilized,” the report states, “O.E.R.I. would facilitate the development of an ‘American solution’to educational improvement by the year 2005.”

Department’s Limited Goals

The department’s five-year reauthorization plan, meanwhile, sets more limited goals.

“This is a proposal for flexibility and greater funding for research,” Ms. Ravitch said.

Toward that end, the proposal would not establish minimum funding levels for the agency’s main programs, which include research-anddevelopment centers, regional laboratories, information clearinghouses, and field-initiated studies. “The decisions concerning the level of support for these activities should be determined each year in the context of all the work that needs to be done to improve education,” Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander wrote to Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley and Vice President Quayle.

The bill would also provide flexibility by allowing the department to combine resources from two or more discretionary programs into one or more programs. Members of the Congress objected this year when the department canceled two grant competitions and shifted funds to support President Bush’s education strategy.

The department’s legislation also proposes scrapping the publication of biennial research priorities. Instead, the proposal includes a set of six broad priorities that it says should guide the agency in all its work.

In addition to changes in research programs, the bill also calls for expanding the National Assessment of Educational Progress to permit state-level assessments in all subjects in 1994. Although the authority to conduct NAEP does not expire until 1993, the planning for the 1994 assessment must begin next year, according to Mr. Alexander.

Congressional hearings on the O.E.R.I. proposals are expected to continue this fall.

A version of this article appeared in the September 11, 1991 edition of Education Week as E.D. Legislation Proposes Flexibility for Research Office