News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

January 15, 1997 2 min read

Congressional Committees in Place

The new chairman of the Senate committee that handles education wasted no time in reorganizing the panel.

After being tapped to head the Labor and Human Resources Committee, Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., promptly abolished the education and disability-policy subcommittees.

Most education bills, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, will start at the committee level, with Mr. Jeffords as chief sponsor.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the sponsor of last year’s failed reauthorization of the special education bill, will now chair the Senate’s new Public Health and Safety Subcommittee.

The IDEA will be the first major bill Mr. Jeffords’ committee takes on, a committee spokesman said. The committee also handles most other education issues as well as bills on health, children and families, disability policy, and the arts and humanities.

Republican Daniel R. Coats of Indiana will continue to chair the Children and Families Subcommittee. Mr. Coats, who last month announced he will not run for re-election in 1998, had considered opposing Mr. Jeffords for the chairmanship.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., will continue to chair the Subcommittee on Aging, and Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, was named the chairman of the new Employment and Training Subcommittee.

The committee will have its first business meeting on Jan. 22, when it will stock the subcommittees and determine the committee’s agenda.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., stays on as the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce panel.

Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Calif., will replace a fellow Californian, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, as the head of the Early Childhood, Youth, and Families Subcommittee, which will hold its hearings on HR 5, the House’s IDEA rewrite, next month.

Another Californian, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, will return as the chairman of the Postsecondary Education, Training, and Life-Long Learning Subcommittee, which will begin hearings on HR 6, the House’s Higher Education Act reauthorization bill, late next month, according to a committee spokesman.

Bilingual Changes Face Questions

Congressional appropriators are skeptical about the Department of Education’s request to shuffle bilingual education funding.

The department wants Congress’ permission to shift $33.4 million out of the grant program supporting bilingual education classrooms so it can use the money on professional development, research, and teacher fellowships.

The classroom-grant program would be left with $123.3 million in the current fiscal year, slightly more than last year. The other activities, which Congress did not fund this year, would triple in size.

“It doesn’t happen very often” that appropriators deny such requests, said Elizabeth Morra, the spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee. “Having said that, [appropriators] have a concern about this particular one because it would take so many kids out of the program.”

Republicans estimate that 350,000 would lose access to federally funded bilingual education if the switch occurs.