News in Brief: A Washington’s Roundup

August 06, 2003 5 min read
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DC Voucher Bill Stalls After Committee Vote

A burst of momentum in Congress to enact school vouchers for the District of Columbia appears to have ebbed, as any further action has now been deferred until after the August recess.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee narrowly approved a voucher bill by a largely party-line vote of 23-22 on July 10. Money for the pilot program was included in a separate spending bill for the District, approved last month by the House Appropriations Committee.

Initially, the voucher measures seemed headed to the floor before the House adjourned in late July. But those votes never came to pass. A GOP aide pointed to Democratic floor tactics the final week before adjournment that slowed the legislative process, and said the House would vote on the pilot program in September.

Some critics suggested that insufficient support explained the lack of action on the measure.

In the Senate, Republicans are expected to try to attach funding for vouchers, as well as extra aid for public schools, to that chamber’s District of Columbia spending bill.

The House bill would authorize $15 million for a pilot voucher program for low-income families in Washington. It would offer vouchers of up to $7,500 for up to 2,000 children to attend private and religious schools.

—Erik W. Robelen

Two Officials Are Appointed To Fill Key Jobs on Acting Basis

President Bush has named Undersecretary Eugene W. Hickok the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Education, the No. 2 position in the agency’s hierarchy.

Mr. Hickok will also retain his current role as the undersecretary. He will serve in the acting capacity until President Bush nominates, and the Senate confirms, a deputy secretary. Some observers have suggested that Mr. Hickok himself may get the formal nod for that post.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hickok’s chief of staff, Ronald Tomalis, is going to serve as the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. Before coming to the department, Mr. Tomalis was the executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where Mr. Hickok was secretary at the time.

William D. Hansen recently left the post of deputy secretary of education. Susan B. Neuman, the former assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, resigned in January.

—Erik W. Robelen

Bush Taps New Executive For Troubled Service Agency

A former executive with the media giant AOL Time Warner Inc. has been tapped by the White House to head the troubled Corporation for National and Community Service. The choice comes as Congress seems unlikely to approve funding for a substantial increase in AmeriCorps members, which the corporation oversees.

President Bush plans to nominate David Eisner to be the chief executive officer of the agency. In recent months, the corporation has been plagued with financial-management difficulties that culminated in a drastic drop in the number of members the agency could enroll. (“Looming Membership Cuts in AmeriCorps Spark Outcry,” July 9, 2003.)

Late last month, 42 governorsincluding Jeb Bush of Florida, the president’s brother called on Congress to appropriate an additional $200 million for AmeriCorps. The Senate approved an extra $100 million. But Senate sources told the Washington Post that the Senate likely will bow to House wishes ultimately to grant no added money to the program.

Mr. Eisner is currently a consultant with the Web-based organization Network for Good, which matches volunteers with organizations and opportunities in their communities. If confirmed, he would replace Leslie Lenkowsky, who has announced his plans to resign from the post, effective Aug. 15.

Teach For America, which matches new college graduates with teaching jobs in needy schools, is in danger of losing nearly two-thirds of its 2,300 AmeriCorps members due to position cuts.

—Michelle Galley

Rule Change Said to Cut Number of Pell Grantees

A regulatory change by the Department of Education will result in loss of eligibility for 84,000 students who would otherwise receive Pell Grants, and $270 million less being spent on that federal financial aid program over time, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.

The June 25 analysis by the service, a nonpartisan agency within the Library of Congress, said that the estimates were based on a maximum Pell Grant of $4,050, and that the figures were computed using numbers from the Education Department’s budget office.

Department spokeswoman Jane Glickman, however, noted that overall spending on Pell Grants will top $11 billion in the current fiscal 2003 and has been targeted for a proposed rise to $12.7 billion in fiscal 2004. In fiscal 2004, nearly 5.1 million students are expected to receive Pell awards, an increase of 283,000 students from 2002-03, department officials said.

—Sean Cavanagh

Report: ESEA Falls Short On Disabilities Issues

A recent report by the National Council on Disability says that the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 did not address issues important to students with disabilities.

The council, an advisory group of presidentially appointed experts on disabilities issues, says in the report that parts of the law, a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, threaten the effectiveness of the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The report, “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, December 2001-December 2002,” is available from the National Council on Disability.

For example, the report says, the No Child Left Behind law does not make clear how school choice provisions or teacher- training requirements would be applied with regard to students with disabilities.

The report, “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report,” looks at the impact of public policy on disabilities issues from December 2001 to December 2002.

The report suggests that the pending reauthorization of the IDEA could fill in the gaps authors say were left in the No Child Left Behind Act.

—Lisa Goldstein


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