Enemy of the year?
Conservative critics of the federal school-to-work program say they are driven by fears that the program aims to track students into careers. But a former Democratic congressman who helped write the law says the groups are more interested in raising money than anything else.
"We're at a time where the need for membership and notoriety drive policy more than vice versa," former Rep. Pat Williams said at a March 31 breakfast during the Education Writers Association annual seminar in San Francisco.
"Some of these groups pick the 'enemy of the year' to get press" and build direct-mail fund-raising appeals, said Mr. Williams, a Montanan who served in the House for 18 years before retiring last year.
Phyllis Schlafly, the only school-to-work critic whom Mr. Williams named, said in a telephone interview last week that her nonprofit isn't profiting from its opposition to the program. The Eagle Forum's fund-raising appeals are focusing on the proposed expansion of NATO and the International Monetary Fund's bailout of Asian currencies, she said.
Regardless, in 1994, Congress said federal funding for the school-to-work program would stop in May 2001.
And, "programs that are intended to sunset will indeed go below the horizon and bid adieu," said Mr. Williams, who teaches at the University of Montana-Missoula and is a consultant for the Washington-based public relations firm that organized the breakfast with journalists.
Brandishing a new report from the Department of Education, Sen. Lauch Faircloth announced last week that only 30 percent of federal education dollars reach the classroom. The North Carolina Republican, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had added language to the fiscal 1998 appropriations bill requiring the department to show where its $29.4 billion discretionary budget is spent.
The report, released last week, said programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act make up $9.7 billion, or about one-third, of the department's budget, and 96 percent of that money goes to schools. If other funds, such those for as special education, are included, the percentage climbs from 30 percent to 47 percent, according to the report.
Still dissatisfied, Sen. Faircloth said he will write legislation to overhaul the department.
--DAVID J. HOFF & JOETTA L. SACK