News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

September 21, 2004 3 min read
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House Panel Approves Vocational Ed. Measure

A bill to reauthorize the main federal vocational education law moved forward in the House last week, while proponents in the Senate say their measure has bipartisan support.

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael N. Castle, a Delaware Republican, was approved by a voice vote on July 21 by the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The Senate proposal to reauthorize the 1998 Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act was introduced a day earlier by Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

Both measures would increase requirements on states and local K-12 programs to form stronger links between academic programs and industries. But while the House bill would merge the two separate sources of federal vocational funding, known as state grants and Tech Prep, the Senate bill would keep the two programs separate.

The Senate bill also would replace all references to the term “vocational education,” which some educators consider antiquated, in the Perkins law and would replace it with “career and technical education.”

The Education Trust, a Washington policy organization, said the two proposals would offer only weak incentives to state and local recipients of federal funding to improve vocational programs, and would allow states to use unreliable data in evaluating them.

“A bad reauthorization is worse than no reauthorization at all,” the organization said in a statement.

—Sean Cavanagh

State-by-State Comparison On U.S. History Proposed

A Senate proposal that was introduced last week would include a state-by-state comparison study of results on the national assessment in U.S. history that is scheduled for 2006.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., propose spending $5 million to pilot the study in 10 states as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is given to national samples of students in core subjects.

The lawmakers pointed to indicators that American schoolchildren are not learning enough about history and government. On the 2001 history NAEP, three-fourths of 4th graders could not identify the three branches of government, for example.

State testing in U.S. history is not required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, an omission many social studies educators say has led to a reduced focus on history and other subjects.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Groups Call for Action On Reauthorization of IDEA

Several education groups, fearing that time is running short to complete a rewrite of the nation’s main special education law this year, are urging Senate leaders to quickly move the process forward.

“The superintendents, boards of education, and principals of the nation’s public schools will be sorely disappointed if the 108th Congress fails to complete its work on this important legislation prior to final adjournment,” the groups wrote in a July 19 letter to the Senate’s majority and minority leaders. The letter was signed by the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the national associations for elementary and secondary school principals.

Both the House and Senate have passed bills to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but the Senate has yet to name members to a conference committee that would reconcile differences between the competing versions. (“Rewrite of Special Education Law Stalls in Congress,” July 14, 2004.)

—Erik W. Robelen

Improved Economics Study Is Aim of Ed. Dept. Grant

The Department of Education awarded the New York City-based National Council on Economic Education a $1.5 million grant last week to help increase economic and financial literacy in schools nationwide.

The grant is the first under the federal Excellence in Economic Education Act.

The NCEE will distribute the money, which must be leveraged with matching funds, to state and local groups that will train teachers in economic education, provide academic resources to school districts, and conduct field research on best practices in fiscal and economic education.

—Rhea R. Borja

A version of this article appeared in the July 28, 2004 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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