Proposed Eisenhower-Program Expansion Opposed

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WASHINGTON--Mathematics and science educators are lobbying furiously for changes in a Clinton Administration proposal that calls for broadening the scope of the Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Program to fund teacher-preparation programs across the curriculum.

The proposal could hamper reform in their disciplines, the educators argue.

As part of its plan for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Administration is proposing to combine the Eisenhower program, which provides formula grants to states, local education agencies, and colleges to support teacher training programs, with the Chapter 2 block grant, essentially eliminating Chapter 2.

As proposed, the new "Dwight D. Eisenhower professional-development program'' would permit state and local education agencies to use program funds to support professional development in all of the "core'' content areas designated in the third and fourth national education goals, including history, the arts, civics, English, and geography.

Administration officials argue that the new program would give state and local education officials greater flexibility to decide how to spend teacher training funds and would enhance "systemic'' reform efforts.

But, while they concede that there are benefits to the Administration's proposal, math and science educators want to protect their claim on Eisenhower funding.

"We need to protect the level of effort and investment that's already being made in math and science reform,'' said Gary Allen, the director of government affairs at the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology, a reform-advocacy group.

Showing the extent of its concern, the Triangle Coalition had planned to hold a news conference last week to give the presidents of the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics a chance to criticize the proposal.

The event's cancellation spurred rumors that the Administration planned to withdraw or amend its proposal. Education Department officials said there are no such plans, and Triangle Coalition officials said they called off the press conference because they believe lawmakers are willing to address their concerns.

"We no longer feel that the Administration's proposal is the operable document,'' Mr. Allen said.

Congressional aides said it is likely that Congress will indeed make some changes that will please the critics, although the basic idea of broadening the Eisenhower program's focus to other content areas is likely to survive.

Some Changes Said Likely

They agreed that lawmakers are especially likely to alter provisions in the Administration bill that would make science and math programs a priority for all Eisenhower grants only if the program's appropriation for a given fiscal year were $250 million or less.

If the appropriation reached a level between $250 million and $500 million, then $250 million, plus 25 percent of the total appropriation in excess of $250 million, would be earmarked for math and science.

If appropriations exceeded $500 million, math and science programs would receive no priority at all.

If the proposed formula had been applied in fiscal 1993, when the total appropriation for both the Eisenhower and Chapter 2 programs was $703 million, math and science programs could have suffered severe cutbacks.

Critics also are concerned that such cutbacks could have a serious, unforeseen "ripple effect'' for other science and math initiatives, such as the National Science Foundation's statewide-systemic-initiative program.

Education departments and colleges often use Eisenhower funds to support teacher training efforts as part of their S.S.I. programs.

Congressional aides and lobbyists noted that the Administration is performing a delicate balancing act in trying to preserve existing education programs while at the same time trying to launch new ones and carry out its promise to streamline government.

"This particular program is illustrative of a broader policy debate,'' said Michael Edwards, the manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association.

He and others noted that advocates of many federal education programs are firmly convinced that their programs have been severely underfunded in the past, and are hoping that a Democratic Administration will provide the financial resources to turn those programs into "more than a just half-empty process,'' in Mr. Edwards's words.

The Eisenhower program disbursed only $264 million in 1993, a small sum next to Chapter 1's $6 billion. But it is viewed as offering "good value for the dollar'' through its ability to foster professional development and leverage local funds to support larger reform efforts.

"The program is frequently the only discretionary resource available for classroom teachers,'' noted Gerry Madrazo, the N.S.T.A. president.

Vol. 13, Issue 08

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