News in Brief:A Washington Roundup

October 01, 2003 2 min read

Agency Proposes Rules For Faith-Based Groups

Faith-based organizations that receive federal funding to provide educational services must keep their religious activities separated “by time and location” from those publicly financed programs, but they do not need to mask or alter their groups’ religious missions, according to regulations proposed last week by the Department of Education.

Part of a multiagency “faith-based initiative” by the Bush administration, the regulations aim to clarify the ground rules for service providers that receive direct or indirect funding through such department-run programs as private tutoring for students at low-performing schools under the No Child Left Behind Act, after-school programs, and community technology centers.

The proposed rules make clear that federally financed, state-administered programs cannot screen out religious organizations for grants or contracts. The regulations also carve out an exemption to the principle of separation between religious activities and publicly financed services for programs that have been “selected as a result of the genuine and independent private choice of the beneficiary of the program.”

But that does not mean that supplemental-service providers chosen by parents to tutor their children under the No Child Left Behind Act could run prayer groups, for example, said John J. Porter, the director of the department’s center for faith-based and community initiatives, because that law requires such providers to offer only secular programming.

—Caroline Hendrie

Paige Announces Grants For History Instruction

Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced last week that $98.5 million in federal grants would be awarded to programs in 35 states that promote better teaching about American history.

The secretary also announced a new partnership between the Department of Education and the History Channel. The cable television service and the department have collaborated on a new series of shows about the meaning behind national holidays such as Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Labor Day. The first show will air in November.

The grant money will support three-year programs that emphasize professional development for teachers to improve their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for American history, according to the department. The grants also will promote the traditional teaching of American history as a separate subject in elementary and secondary schools.

—Michelle Galley