Status of Federal Legislation

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This monthly update reports the status of key education-related bills as of May 10.

Education Appropriations, Fiscal 1996; Goals 2000; D.C. School Reform PL 104-134

This omnibus appropriations law funds several agencies for the remainder of fiscal 1996, which ends Sept. 30. It provides about $24.1 billion in discretionary funding for Department of Education programs, slightly less than was spent in fiscal 1995. A provision of the law amends the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in an effort to appease conservative critics and nonparticipating states, and to allow districts in those states to apply for funding on their own. The law also includes the District of Columbia's budget, which had been stalled by a proposal to set aside $5 million to help low-income students in the city pay tuition at the public or private school of their choice. Conferees stripped the voucher plan from the bill. They retained a package of school reforms, but voucher proponents refused to provide funding for the programs if the choice program was not included. (See Education Week, April 3 and May 8, 1996.)

Both houses of Congress approved the compromise measure on April 25. President Clinton signed it on April 26.

Budget Resolutions, Fiscal 1997

Not yet numbered

The bills are spending blueprints with estimates for large categories of programs to guide appropriations for fiscal 1997, which begins Oct. 1, as well as long-term budget plans. House bill would provide $46.9 billion in 1997 for the category that includes education programs, and calls for eliminating several of them. Senate bill would provide $52.6 billion. The 1996 budget resolution offered $48.5 billion.

The House and Senate Budget Committees approved their respective bills last week. (See story, page 14.)

Next: Floor action in the House and Senate.

Health Care

HR 3103

Both bills would require insurers to sell health coverage to most individuals, and limit the period for which an insurer can refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions. House bill also includes controversial provisions that would allow individuals to pay medical costs from medical savings accounts, and limit awards in medical-malpractice cases.

The House passed HR 3103 on March 28. The Senate approved its version of the bill on April 23.

Next: A House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill has not yet been scheduled.


HR 2202

The bills include many measures that aim to curb illegal immigration and restrict legal and illegal immigrants' eligibility for some public benefits. House bill would allow states to deny undocumented children free access to K-12 public education. Most proposed restrictions on legal immigration were stripped from the bills. (See Education Week, Sept. 20, 1995, and March 27, 1996.)

The House passed HR 2202 on March 21. The Senate approved its version of the bill on May 2.

Next: A House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill has not yet been scheduled

Impact Aid

HR 3269, S 1509

The bills would make technical changes to the impact-aid program. Both would add protections for districts affected by changes in methods for assessing federal property. House bill also contains provisions related to the treatment of school districts that consolidate, the treatment of Hawaii's unique statewide district under the law, and military-base housing. Senate bill would also change allocations for some heavily impacted districts.

The House approved HR 3269 on May 7. The Senate passed S 1509 on Dec. 22, 1995.

Next: A House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill has not yet been scheduled.

Parental Rights

HR 1271, HR 1946, S 984

HR 1271 would require federal agencies to obtain parental approval before administering certain surveys to students. HR 1946 and S 984 would bar government and school officials from interfering with "the upbringing of a child" unless a "compelling governmental interest" was involved. (See Education Week, May 24, 1995.)

HR 1271 was approved by the House on April 4. Last fall, hearings were held in the House on HR 1946 and in the Senate on the broader topic of parental rights.

Next: More House and Senate hearings are expected.

Religious Liberty

HJ Res 121, HJ Res 127

Both bills would amend the U.S. Constitution in an effort to provide greater protection for religious expression. HJ Res 127 would specifically protect student-sponsored prayer in public schools. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1995.)

HJ Res 121 was introduced Nov. 15 and HJ Res 127 on Nov. 28.

Next: The House Judiciary Committee plans to debate the proposed amendments later in the year.

School Meals

HR 2066

Bill would give schools more flexibility to meet new nutritional guidelines for federally subsidized school meals, and insure that schools would not have to use computerized nutrient analysis.

The House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee approved the bill May 1.

Next: Floor action in the House, committee action in the Senate.

Special Education

S 1578, HR 3268

Both bills would: make it easier for school officials to reassign or expel disruptive disabled students; encourage mediation in disputes between schools and parents; require schools to set high standards for disabled students; and consolidate some programs. (See Education Week, March 27 and May 1, 1996.)

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee unanimously approved S 1578 on March 21. The House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee passed HR 3268 last week.

Next: Floor action in the House and Senate.

Vocational Education

HR 1617, S 143

House bill would replace more than 100 vocational-education, adult-education, and job-training programs with block grants for youth programs, adult literacy, and adult job training. Senate bill would create a single block grant, replacing about 90 programs. (See Education Week, Oct. 18, 1995, and Jan. 31, 1996.)

The House bill passed Sept. 19. The Senate bill passed Oct. 11.

Next: A House-Senate conference has been delayed by differences over the programs' structure, the long budget battle, and opposition from conservative groups opposed to provisions that would set standards for vocational programs.

Welfare Reform

HR 4

HR 4 would end guaranteed coverage and turn welfare and Medicaid funding over to the states in block grants. States could offer benefits for children born to welfare recipients only by passing legislation. They would have the option of denying benefits to unwed teenage parents. The bill would also tighten eligibility rules for the Supplemental Security Income program for disabled children. It also includes a compromise that would allow seven states to run their school-meals programs under block grants. Also on the table are proposals from the National Governors' Association, which would revamp welfare and Medicaid along the lines of HR 4, but would give states both more flexibility and more funding safeguards.

The House passed HR 4 Dec. 21, 1995, and the Senate followed suit a day later. President Clinton vetoed the bill on Jan. 9.

Next: Republican leaders are debating whether to try to draft a welfare-reform bill that President Clinton will sign, or pass a more confrontational bill and try to use a presidential veto as a campaign issue in the November elections. Lawmakers plan to introduce a new bill in the next month that incorporates much of the governors' plan. (See story, page 14, and Education Week, April 10, 1996.)

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