House Republicans elected a few new faces to their leadership last week and vowed to make education a top priority.
As expected, Rep. Robert L. Livingston, R-La., was chosen to succeed retiring Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., as speaker of the House, a selection that must be confirmed by a vote of the full House in January. As Appropriations Committee chairman, Mr. Livingston has presided over several large increases to the education budget in the past three years. ("Educators Keep Tabs on Leadership Turmoil," Nov. 18, 1998.)
Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, one of the leading voices for federally funded vouchers, hung onto his post as majority leader against three challengers. Rep. J.C. Watts, the Oklahoman who is the only African-American Republican in Congress, ousted Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio to become GOP conference chairman. Mr. Watts has drawn fire from black Democrats for his support of vouchers for poor students.
But some Republicans have speculated that the new leaders will not push voucher-related measures, in order to avoid replays of contentious debates that took place in the just-concluded congressional session.
About 250,000 children will soon be able to attend after-school activities funded by the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center Program.
During a Nov. 12 White House ceremony, President Clinton announced 183 new 21st Century grants, which will go to 600 schools in 44 states. The grants, totaling $60 million, were included in this year's federal budget, which quintupled funding for the program from $40 million to $200 million a year.
Mr. Clinton emphasized, however, that he's far from meeting his child-care goals. "The truth is that when it comes to raising our children in this new era, we are not there yet," he said, referring to new data showing that, during fiscal 1997, child-care subsidies served 1.25 million of 10 million eligible children. Last January, the president proposed a $7.5 billion increase in federal spending on child care, but Congress approved only minor increases for care for preschool-age children.
Responding to Mr. Clinton, Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said he hopes any new child-care plans will "respect the needs of moms and dads who choose to stay at home to care for their children."
--JOETTA L. SACK & LINDA JACOBSON
Vol. 18, Issue 13, Page 16