N.G.A. To Focus in Coming Year on Steps To Meet Goals

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SEATTLE--The National Governors' Association will focus its energies in the coming year on stops toward meeting the national education goals, the organization's new chairman has vowed.

"This year, and for the remainder of the decade, we are going to make N.G.A. stand for national goals achievement," Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri told N.G.A. members holding their annual meeting here last month.

Mr. Ashcroft promised to turn the association's full attention to the education goals adopted by the governors and the Bush Administration in/990.

The N.G.A. has traditionally studied an issue of the chairman's choosing and recommended solutions in a policy statement. But Mr. Ashcroft said his plans will go well beyond such efforts.

The Missouri Republican has formed three "action teams" whose members include both business executives and governors--that will focus on school readiness, the school years, and lifelong learning. Their reports will consist of a catalogue of successful education-reform efforts, some of which the participating governors will have tried in their own states.

"They are not being asked for more study of the issues," Mr. Ashcroft said. "As members of action teams, governors have agreed to undertake major state-level reform initiatives designed to make progress toward one or more of the national goals."

The N.G.A. also devoted a year to education reform five years ago, when Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, then governor of Tennessee, was its chairman.

Mr. Ashcroft said his decision to return to the issue was not an indication that the previous effort was unsuccessful, although many of the goals included in what was called "the governors' 1991 report on education" have not been achieved.

"A lot of good things have happened in the states. The schools are better," Mr. Ashcroft said. "But it's more than a five-year process. You can't do something for a couple of years and then walk away."

The N.G.A. will also address problems caused by changes in the American family and consider policy statements on issues such as child care, welfare, and the effect of the tax cede on children and families. Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. of Maine, chairman of the committee on human resources, announced that he would devote the panel's efforts to those issues, and held a heating on them here.

The bulk of the N.G.A. meeting this year, however, was devoted to the issue of health care. Members struggled with the question of how to ensure access to all Americans while also preventing rapidly rising costs from draining state funds for education and other priorities.

Medicaid Overhaul Urged

The governors called for a national solution to the problem by the year 2000, including overhauling the Medicare and Medicaid programs so that the federal government would pay for long-term care for the elderly.

In addition, the state executives urged that Medicaid be transformed from a program primarily for welfare recipients to one that serves all low-income people and those without health insurance.

In the short term, the N.G.A. Statement pledges governors to develop "comprehensive, statewide reforms to expand access and control costs," and asks the federal government to grant regulatory waivers.

During discussion of the proposal, several governors noted that a lack of health cure is a particularly serious problem among disadvantaged children, whose ability to learn can be impaired as a result. A report issued in conjunction with the policy statement, titled "A Healthy America: The Challenge for States," urges an increased reliance on schools, either to deliver health cure in school-based clinics or to refer children to health-care providers.

Although the policy was adopted unanimously, partisan divisions were evident. Several Democratic governors attacked the proposal as too weak, and pushed an amendment demanding that the Bush Administration and the Congress come up with a plan to ensure universal access to health cure by 1994.

"The concern I have is that we have not gone fur enough," said Gov. Ann W. Richards, a Texas Democrat. "The one place we don't have any consensus that something radical must be done is among elected officials."

Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington, who as N.C.A. chairman last year chose to focus on health cure, predicted that his fellow Democrats would make the Republicans' reluctance to commit to specific action a campaign issue in 1992.

In a separate resolution, Republican governors joined their Democratic colleagues in condemning the Administration for pending regulations that would restrict a method many states use to help pay their share of the cost of Medicaid.

The Administration argues that states are essentially defrauding the federal government by levying special Medicaid taxes on health-cure providers and then spending the proceeds by purchasing services from the same providers--and collecting federal matching funds for the state's contribution.

The proposed regulations would limit the matching of funds generated by special taxes, and would eliminate matching when states use donations from health-care providers to purchase services.

Higher-Education 'Duty'

N.G.A. members also approved amendments broadening their higher-education policy.

The new policy is more forceful in calling on the federal government to fulfill its "duty" to ensure access to higher education.

The statement also contends that, while the federal government has "the primary role" in ensuring access, states should take the lead in "ensuring program quality." It suggests that states could take a more active role in shoring up the beleaguered student-aid programs if they are given more authority over the management of the programs.

The governors reiterated their support for programs helping families save for higher education, strengthened their call for an examination of the balance between federal grants and loans, and endorsed revision of aid-program rules regarding the way equity in a home, farm, or small business is considered in determining a family's contribution.

The new policy also endorses partnerships between colleges and elementary and secondary schools, and programs that encourage high-school students to attend college.

Bush Promise

The Seattle meeting also featured a televised address by President Bush, who urged adoption of his America 2000 education strategy and promised to play a personal role in selling it to the public.

Mr. Bush said he will make a speech on the state of the nation's school system this week, and "address the nation's schoolchildren" on Oct. 3.

In addition, Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa announced that his state will host a "Forum on National Education Goals" on Oct. 27-28. The forum is to be attended by delegations of educators from each state, several governors, and Secretary Alexander. Mr. Branstad said President Bush also might attend.

Vol. 11, Issue 01, Page 29

Published in Print: September 4, 1991, as N.G.A. To Focus in Coming Year on Steps To Meet Goals
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