State Journal: Protesting mandates; Education platform

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A coalition of organizations representing state and local governments staged a national protest last week against the common federal practice of issuing mandates without providing funds to pay for their implementation.

"The money could be put to better use to buy textbooks, computers, and science-lab equipment and to provide training for teachers and administrators,'' Boyd Boehlje, the president-elect of the National School Boards Association, said at a Washington news conference about "Unfunded Mandates Day.''

A survey of 314 cities released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that complying with 10 major federal laws costs cities 11.7 percent of their budgets.

The only law in the survey that directly affects schools is a law requiring schools to test and develop management plans for asbestos. Mr. Boehlje cited a U.S. General Accounting Office study that found that 15 school districts in five states had spent more than $28 million on asbestos removal over a three-year period and received only $142,000 in federal funds.

While all mandates that force state and local governments to redirect resources can affect school budgets, the federal law with the most direct impact is the landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees disabled children a free public education.

Mr. Boehlje noted that Congress pledged to foot 40 percent of the cost, but currently pays only about 7 percent.

In response to the protest, President Clinton last week issued an executive order barring federal agencies from imposing new mandates on state and local governments unless funding is provided or the agency shows evidence that it has consulted with state and local officials.

The order also calls on agencies to grant waivers to rules where feasible.

However, the order does not apply to rules required by federal law--such as the asbestos and special-education mandates.

George W. Bush, who plans to challenge Gov. Ann Richards of Texas next year, reportedly told a group of Republicans recently that education issues will be a cornerstone of his campaign and that he will propose abolishing the state education agency.

Mr. Bush, the son of former President Bush, said he will propose shifting more authority for education to the local level while increasing state funding, according to the Houston Chronicle, which quoted unnamed sources present at the meeting.

Mr. Bush also reportedly said he would propose a "means tested'' voucher program to allow poor students to attend private schools.--J.M.

Vol. 13, Issue 09

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