News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

April 30, 1997 3 min read

High Court To Ponder Line-Item Veto

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the president should have the power to pick and choose among the programs Congress votes to fund.

The high court last week agreed to hear arguments May 27 about the constitutionality of a 1996 law that gives the president the power to veto specific line items in appropriations bills Congress passes.

Without so-called line-item-veto authority, the president must accept or reject an entire spending bill and cannot selectively overrule Congress’ funding choices.

But if the Supreme Court endorses the law in question, President Clinton or one of his successors could, for example, approve Congress’ decision to fund the Title I compensatory education program, but reject the lawmakers’ decision to give money to federal special education grants.

Mr. Clinton has not had the opportunity to exercise that power since the law went into effect Jan. 1.

Congress “may not confer the power permanently to rescind an appropriation or tax benefit that has become the law of the United States,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson wrote in declaring the 1996 law unconstitutional on April 10.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision in the case by early July, when it adjourns for the summer.

Charter Schools Go on the Web

The Department of Education has taken charter schools on-line.

Intended to create a national charter school information network, the U.S. Charter Schools site on the World Wide Web offers charter school developers guidance on everything from drafting a mission statement to managing standards and assessment, fund raising, governance, accountability, and legal questions. The site was launched this month.

The department worked with WestEd, a national, nonprofit education research-and-development group, and California State University’s Institute for Education Reform, to create the site, which includes links to related information on the Internet. Parts of the site are still under construction.

Also this month, the Education Department held a satellite town meeting on charter schools, magnet schools, and other public-school-choice issues. The town meetings are monthly live, interactive video teleconferences. For more information on the satellite town meetings, call (800) USA-LEARN. The U.S. Charter Schools Web address is:

NEH Chairman To Resign

Sheldon Hackney announced last week that he will step down as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities after his four-year term ends in August.

Mr. Hackney said he plans to return to teaching history at the University of Pennsylvania. While leading the federal agency through an era of drastically reduced federal funding, Mr. Hackney sought new partnerships with private industry to help finance the endowment’s grants for research, education, museum exhibitions, documentaries, and preservation efforts.

The agency, which supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities, hosts summer institutes for about 1,000 high school teachers each year to improve their teaching of specific subjects.

Democrats Unveil Education Bills

Democratic members of the House introduced two initiatives last week that they say will improve on President Clinton’s education proposals and help impoverished students and schools.

One bill would allow local education schools and school districts to collaborate with parents, students, teachers, and school staff members and community representatives in applying for federal grants and other types of assistance.

Rep. William L. Clay, D-Mo., the chief sponsor for both bills announced at a news conference April 24, said he sees the grant measure as an alternative to vouchers. Mr. Clay, who is the senior Democrat on the education committee, said he would request $750 million in funding for the program’s first two years.

A second initiative would make changes to higher education loan programs, including forgiving loans for students who take teaching jobs in public schools in low-income areas and eliminating student-loan origination fees.