New in Brief
Va. and N.H. Reject Goals 2000 Funds: With the passing of an application deadline, Virginia and New Hampshire were left as the only two states to reject all funding under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.
Gov. George F. Allen of Virginia and Gov. Stephen Merrill of New Hampshire are among critics who argue that the Clinton Administration initiative--which provides education-reform grants to states that agree to establish challenging content and performance standards--will result in too much federal influence over local schools.
Mr. Allen rejected the advice of his state's board of education, which voted 4 to 3 to participate in Goals 2000. He asked Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley for an extension of the application deadline, but the request was rejected.
The New Hampshire state board voted 4 to 2 last month to reject Goals 2000 funds, although Commissioner of Education Elizabeth M. Twomey expressed disappointment in the decision.
Federal officials have approved state plans for four states--Oregon, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Utah--for second-year funding under the program. To receive second-year funding, states must submit a statewide school-improvement plan or demonstrate "significant progress" toward submission of such a plan.
Another 11 states have applied for second-year funding.
Civil-Rights Controversy: Over the objections of half its members, an ideologically polarized U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has issued a report alleging 15 years of federal neglect toward the enforcement of civil-rights laws.
The report, issued last month, contends that the federal offices charged with enforcing those laws--including the Education Department's office for civil rights--remain underfunded and understaffed and have not recovered from damage done under the Reagan Administration.
"The bottom line is that persons entitled to the protection of the federal government cannot be sure of receiving it, particularly on a timely basis," said Mary Frances Berry, the commission's chairwoman and a long-time member.
The report asserts that the number of federal employees assigned to civil-rights enforcement dropped by 19 percent between the 1981 and 1994 fiscal years. Even if Congress were to adopt President Clinton's proposed boost in funding next year, the offices would still have 14 percent fewer employees than in 1981.
Meanwhile, the report notes, the workload of civil-rights-enforcement agencies has more than doubled since 1981, largely because Congress has passed new laws.
Four of the eight commissioners protested that they were denied an opportunity to cast informed votes on the report. The dissenters, who were appointed by Republicans, said a deadlock would have blocked the report from being released in its current form.
The civil-rights commission has been bitterly divided along ideological lines during much of the period covered by its recent report. Congress established the independent, bipartisan, fact-finding panel in 1957.
Foster Nomination Defeated: Although President Clinton's nominee for surgeon general was defeated in the Senate, Dr. Henry Foster may still receive a White House appointment.
His supporters failed in two attempts to thwart a filibuster by Republican opponents.
After hours of debate, the Senate voted 57 to 43 on June 21 to reject a measure that would have allowed a vote on the nomination. The following day, the measure failed again.
At a news conference following the votes, President Clinton said that the nomination had become ensnarled in the politics of abortion and that "senators have done a disservice to a good man."
Shortly after Dr. Foster's hopes to be the nation's chief doctor were dashed, Administration officials hinted that he might be offered a job as an adviser on a national campaign to reduce teenage pregnancy.
The obstetrician-gynecologist from Nashville had come under fire during the confirmation process for his record on abortion.
Zero Tolerance: The Senate last week took President Clinton's advice and approved a bill that would require the withholding of federal highway funds from states that do not adopt a "zero tolerance" policy for underage drunken drivers.
Under an amendment offered by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., to the proposed "national highway system designation act," states would lose 5 percent of their highway money in fiscal 1998 and 10 percent in fiscal 1999 if they did not pass laws declaring drivers under 21 legally intoxicated if they were found to have blood-alcohol-content levels of .02 percent or more. Most states set .10 percent as the limit for adults.
Mr. Byrd's amendment passed by a vote of 64 to 36.
Vaccine Critics: Some Republican members of Congress are using a recent General Accounting Office report critical of the Administration's child vaccination program to build support for dismantling it.
The G.A.O. study, published last month, criticizes the Clinton Administration's effort to provide free vaccines to low-income children by their second birthday. In focusing mainly on reducing the cost of vaccines, the report says, the Vaccines for Children program, which was launched in 1993, has not placed enough emphasis on outreach and education, which is crucial to increasing immunization rates.
Rep. Scott L. Klug, R-Wis., told The New York Times last month that the Administration is "totally out of touch with the problem."
Administration officials said they would fight efforts to scale back funding for the program.
Vol. 14, Issue 40