Colo. Commissioner Departs Chiefs' Group Over Policy Differences

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Colorado's education commissioner has dropped his membership in the Council of Chief State School Officers, citing policy differences with the Washington-based group that advocates on behalf of most top state education officials.

William J. Moloney charged in a recent letter to the organization that the chiefs' group took positions that often contradicted those of elected officials in Colorado. In response, Mr. Moloney wrote, he has joined the Education Leaders Council, a Washington group formed in 1995 as an alternative to the CCSSO.

In a two-page letter announcing his move, Mr. Moloney cited two examples of such differences. For one, Colorado officials disagree with CCSSO testimony opposing provisions of Super Ed-Flex, a Republican-backed plan in Congress to give states more flexibility in using money from federal education programs.

He also split with what he said was the group's defense of President Clinton's plan to require 95 percent of all teachers to be fully certified within four years. The proposal is included in the president's plan for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"In Colorado, we simply could not do it, and the effort would be seriously disruptive to a large proportion of our schools, particularly in remote areas," Mr. Moloney wrote.

Leaders Council

Mr. Moloney, who was appointed to his non-partisan post by the elected state board of education in 1997, is one of just four state school chiefs who are not CCSSO members. The others are Lisa Graham Keegan of Arizona and Linda C. Schrenko of Georgia, both elected, Republican chiefs, and Eugene W. Hickok of Pennsylvania, who was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican.

"We regret losing any of the chiefs as members of the council," said Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the CCSSO. "We are nonpartisan, and we have a very broad range of political and educational interests represented, and we are always enriched by this variation."

Mr. Ambach said his group has been a leading supporter of greater state flexibility. But it has concerns over pieces of Super Ed-Flex, such as provisions that would allow Title I aid--which is targeted toward helping students from low-income families--to be spent on students other than the most financially needy.

In choosing to join the Education Leaders Council, Mr. Moloney said he hoped to find a membership organization that represents his state's views more consistently on more issues.

"It's a good thing," Gary M. Huggins, the executive director of the ELC, said of Mr. Moloney's move. "It means we have another state along with us that shares our urgency for education reform."

Asked about positions on which his group differs from the CCSSO, Mr. Huggins said his members are more open to school choice options, including vouchers, as well as alternative forms of teacher certification.

Mr. Ambach said that his invitations to work more closely with the Education Leaders Council, which includes state school board members and other predominantly Republican state leaders, had been ignored. "On a great many issues," he maintained, "the interests of members of the ELC are the same as the council."

Vol. 18, Issue 43, Page 23

Published in Print: August 4, 1999, as Colo. Commissioner Departs Chiefs' Group Over Policy Differences
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