Education

News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

August 07, 2002 7 min read
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First Title IX Panel Meeting Held Behind Closed Doors

A Department of Education advisory committee formed to study the status of Title IX met for the fist time in late July. The meeting was not announced beforehand and was not open to the public.

The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, formed by Secretary of Education Rod Paige in June, will hold meetings around the country to examine ways of strengthening enforcement and expanding the reach of the 30-year-old federal law barring sex discrimination in any education program that receives federal funding. Mr. Paige’s move came on the heels of criticism from women’s groups that he and the Bush administration did not vigorously support Title IX enforcement.

After the July 29 meeting, the co-chairs of the advisory committee, Cynthia Cooper, a former Women’s National Basketball Association star, and Ted Leland, the director of athletics at Stanford University, said the time was right to revisit the law.

Department officials say a schedule of commission meetings for the coming year should be issued soon.

The meeting was held behind closed doors, department spokesman Daniel Langan said, because it was an organizational gathering dealing with administrative issues.

At least one expert on open-meetings laws questioned that decision. Rebecca Daugherty, the Freedom of Information Service Center director for the Arlington, Va.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that because the commission’s charter explicitly states that the panel is governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, “you meet in public unless one of the exemptions apply.” Ms. Daugherty said she did not believe the panel could close its doors for organizational purposes.

—Michelle R. Davis

House Mulls Education Tax Break

A key committee vote on a bill that would allow parents a tax deduction of $3,000 for school expenses was postponed in July but will be rescheduled for September.

The House Ways and Means Committee had been scheduled to mark up the proposed “Back to School Tax Relief” Act of 2002 on July 25, but put that step off until the House returns next month from its summer break.

The measure would allow a parent whose income is $20,000, or $40,000 for a married couple filing its tax returns jointly, to take $3,000 in above-the-line deductions for expenses related to K-12 education in public, private, religious, or home schools. Those expenses could range from tuition and tutoring to transportation and school supplies, and no itemization would be required. It’s estimated to cut federal revenue by $4.9 billion over four years.

A married couple earning $35,000 with one child in public school, taking the maximum deduction, would save about $450, according to the Ways and Means Committee.

—Michelle R. Davis

Agency Management Gains Seen

In a federal scorecard released last week that rates government agencies’ progress on management reforms, the Department of Education got the highest rating—a green dot—in four out of five categories.

The ratings, done by the White House Office of Management and Budget, follows President Bush’s call last year for improvements in various areas, including attracting talented people to government service, controlling costs, better use of the Internet for services, and financial and performance accountability.

In a rating last year, the education agency received dreaded red dots, the color of failure, in all categories.

But July’s midyear assessment was a different story. The Education Department received green dots for human capital, competitive sourcing, e-government, and budget and performance integration. In the area of financial management, the department got a yellow dot, signifying mixed results.

When it comes to actually meeting the president’s management goals, not just making progress toward them, the Education Department is still in the red, along with every other agency except for the National Science Foundation. “There’s still work to do,” said Daniel Langan, the department’s spokesman, “but we’ve done quite a bit to improve the operation of the department.”

—Michelle R. Davis

Report: Tech Divide Still Exists

While more Americans have access to technology, “significant divides still exist” between groups such as the middle class and the poor, rural and urban areas, and Northern and Southern states, according to a private report that challenges an earlier federal study.

“Bringing a Nation Online: The Importance of Federal Leadership” blasts the study by the Department of Commerce as painting an “overly optimistic picture” of a narrowing digital divide. The new report, published by the Washington-based Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund and the Benton Foundation, also says the Bush administration would impede technology access if it eliminated two major technology-funding programs.

Both the Commerce Department’s technology-opportunities program and the Department of Education’s community-technology-center initiative are slated for elimination in Mr. Bush’s proposed fiscal 2003 federal budget. Since 1995, those programs have awarded $300 million in grants.

—Rhea R. Borja

‘Fed Up’ Goes Toes Up in House

Legislation that aimed to give college students more flexibility in deciding when to take out loans and to bring regulatory relief to borrowers and universities died on the House floor last month, an apparent casualty of election-year partisan rancor.

Republicans thought they had bipartisan support for the measure, dubbed “Fed Up.” But on July 16, it was defeated in the House after Democrats rallied against it.

“I was disappointed in their reaction, because the students are the ones who suffer as a result,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-California.

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the GOP had shut his party out of the process by refusing to allow for consideration of any amendments, including several measures aimed at increasing loan forgiveness for students. In a statement, Mr. Miller accused Republicans of “an abuse of the legislative process.”

The bill would have allowed colleges to give out money in single installments, rather than more gradual disbursements. Among other provisions, it also would have waived federal rules forcing first-time borrowers to wait 30 days before getting their loans.

Mr. McKeon, who had solicited comments from students and financial-aid officials on an Internet site before introducing the bill, expressed little optimism that it could be revived this year.

—Sean Cavanagh

Census Study: Education Pays

The amount of money people earn over their lifetimes is likely to be greater if they earn a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree, according to a recent study released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the report, “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings,” a high school graduate on average can expect to earn $1.2 million over his or her adult career. A student who achieves a bachelor’s degree, in comparison, can expect to make $2.1 million, and a master’s-degree recipient, $2.5 million. Students who earn doctorates or professional degrees stand to make even more money, according to the study.

The estimates of lifetime earnings were based on a working career from age 25 to 64. The report can be seen at the Census Bureau’s Web site, www.census.gov, under “Newsroom” and “Releases,” for July 18.

—Sean Cavanagh

Surgeon General Confirmed

The Senate has confirmed Richard H. Carmona as the next surgeon general in a unanimous voice vote. The approval came July 23 without debate.

Dr. Carmona, an Arizona trauma surgeon and deputy sheriff, will succeed former Surgeon General David Satcher, whose term expired in February. The post has been vacant since then.

As part of his new responsibilities, Dr. Carmona will oversee reports and initiatives on issues affecting school-age children. His predecessor’s focus on children’s mental health helped make the issue a higher national priority.

—Lisa Fine

The 2002 Election: Former Secretary of Education Wins Tenn. GOP Senate Primary

Former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander moved a step closer to joining the Senate last week, when he defeated his opponent in Tennessee’s gop primary.

With about two-thirds of the vote counted at press time, he had secured 54 percent of Republican votes to win the party’s nomination, defeating U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant.

“It means more support for schools and more support for local control of how that money is spent,” Mr. Alexander told supporters election night, according to The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville. Mr. Alexander, who served two terms as Tennessee’s governor from 1979 to 1987, was education secretary from 1991 to 1993 under the first President Bush.

Mr. Alexander, 62, now faces off in the general election against Democratic Rep. Bob Clement, whose father also was governor of the state. If elected, Mr. Alexander would be the first U.S. education secretary ever to serve in Congress.

—Erik W. Robelen

A version of this article appeared in the August 07, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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