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The Honeymoon's Over

Despite all the calls for bipartisanship on education this year, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is getting off to a rocky start. Democrats last week announced a boycott of the panel's subcommittees.

They're upset because Republicans, led by new Chairman John A. Boehner of Ohio, have pushed through structural changes that they argue inappropriately set apart higher education issues for minority students from those pertaining to nonminorities.

Under new committee rules approved along party lines Feb. 2, issues concerning historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic- serving institutions, and Native American tribal colleges will be handled by a new Select Education Subcommittee. The new 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee will oversee many, but not all, other higher education issues.

"We categorically reject the division of higher education jurisdictions along racial and ethnic lines," the committee's Democrats wrote in a Feb. 14 letter to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asking him to intervene in the situation.

Some Democrats say the change is a throwback to the doctrine that minorities are "separate but equal."

David Schnittger, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said Democrats were wrong to suggest that the divisions were made along racial and ethnic lines, pointing out that the new subcommittee will deal with all "institutional" higher education issues, not just for minorities—including community colleges and graduate education, for example. The new panel will also oversee issues relating to juvenile justice, environmental education, runaway youths, and other programs.

Mr. Schnittger said a primary reason for placing minority institutions in a separate subcommittee was to ensure they receive adequate attention.

Democrats say they won't assign members to the subcommittees until the matter is resolved.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 20, Issue 23, Page 17

Published in Print: February 21, 2001, as Federal File

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