News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

January 22, 2003 4 min read
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GOP Adds Members To House Ed. Panel

Six new Republicans have joined the House Education and the Workforce Committee, where they will help steer federal education policy in the 108th Congress.

“These members bring a diversity of experiences and talents that can only enhance our committee’s efforts,” said Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman.

The new members, all elected in November, are: Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Carter of Texas, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, John Kline of Minnesota, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, and Jon Porter of Nevada. Four of them previously served in state legislatures.

Republicans still have one more vacancy to fill on the panel. As of last week, Democrats had not yet announced any new members.

The departures include a blend of members who have left the House and others who have opted for different committee assignments. One committee member, Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, died last fall.

—Erik W. Robelen

Final Title IX Meeting Set for Jan. 29-30

Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics will hold its last meeting Jan. 29 and 30 in Washington to discuss its final report, expected to be ready by the end of February.

The 15-member panel is studying Title IX, the 30-year-old federal law that prohibits gender discrimination at schools receiving federal funds. For the past five months, the group has held public hearings across the country to gather comments on how the law is working. Some women’s groups say the law needs to do more to ensure girls and women receive equal treatment on the playing field, but some men’s athletic organizations say Title IX regulations have forced schools to cut men’s teams.

The group postponed its last meeting and wangled a reprieve on its Jan. 31 deadline for submitting a report to Mr. Paige, saying members needed more time to discuss the issues. Department of Education officials say the report will be turned in to Secretary Paige by Feb. 28.

—Michelle R. Davis

College Board Study Urges College Aid Hike

A blue-ribbon panel commissioned by the sponsor of the nation’s most widely used college-admissions exam is recommending a substantial boost in funding for Pell Grants and other financial-aid programs designed to help low-income students cover the rising costs of higher education.

Read the report, “Challenging Times, Clear Choices: An Action Agenda for College Access and Success,” from the College Board. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The College Board, the New York City-based, nonprofit group that sponsors the SAT, urged in the report last week that Congress raise Pell Grant funding enough to cover 84 percent of the average cost of a four-year public education. That benchmark was in place 30 years ago, its panel said.

The panel of academic leaders, elected officials, lenders, and others, did not recommend a specific amount for Pell Grants, which provide a maximum yearly award of $4,000 in fiscal 2003.

Reaching the 84 percent benchmark would likely require a significant funding jump, given that the College Board estimates today’s average yearly tuition and fees at a four-year public university is $9,700. Raising Pell Grant funding has become a rallying cry for student advocates and some members of Congress, and the issue will likely come up as Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act this year.

—Sean Cavanagh

Scalia: Courts Go Too Far On Church-State Barriers

Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court said in a speech last week that courts have sometimes gone too far in interpreting the U.S. Constitution to exclude expressions of religion from public forums and government speech.

Addressing a crowd of about 150 people at a park in Fredericksburg, Va., on Jan. 12, Justice Scalia pointed to last year’s decision by a federal appeals court that the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against a government establishment of religion.

He said that past Supreme Court rulings had given the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit “some plausible support” for the decision, the Associated Press reported, but that they were treading into a matter that should be decided legislatively. The Supreme Court’s public-information office said Justice Scalia had declined to release a copy of his remarks.

The pledge ruling has not gone into effect, pending reconsideration by a larger panel of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit court.

Justice Scalia also defended student prayers at high school graduation ceremonies and the phrase “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, according to press reports. The Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization of Roman Catholic laymen, sponsored the Fredericksburg event to commemorate the day in 1777 when Thomas Jefferson visited the town to help draft what would become the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

—Mark Walsh


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