News in Brief

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Senate Approves Boost In Child-Care Funding

States would receive $6 billion more for child-care assistance programs under a proposal passed last week by the Senate and added to the welfare- reauthorization bill.

The measure would give states that amount over five years in additional mandatory funding for helping low-income parents pay for child care, particularly when they’re moving off public assistance and into the workforce. The money would come from extending fees collected on imported goods, according to the office of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, the Maine Republican who drew up the amendment.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that current federally funded child-care programs need $4.5 billion to keep the present level of support in states. Additional funding would be needed for an expected increase in enrollment.

The 78-20 Senate vote on March 30 means the amendment is now part of the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare-reform law. However, on April 1, the Senate was unable to bring the bill to a vote, said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Ms. Snowe, though it could be voted on later.

The House passed its own version of the welfare-reauthorization bill in February 2003. It included a $1 billion increase for child care over five years.

—Michelle R. Davis

Initial Research Contract On D.C. Vouchers Awarded

The Department of Education awarded a $420,000 contract last week to a group of researchers to lay the groundwork for a long-term evaluation of the new school voucher program for the District of Columbia.

Westat, a for-profit research organization based in Rockville, Md., was awarded the 10-month contract, along with scholars at Georgetown University’s public-policy institute in Washington and Chesapeake Research Associates, a consulting firm based in Annapolis, Md.

Chief among the researchers’ responsibilities will be to design and monitor a lottery to randomly select applicants to receive vouchers, under the assumption that demand for the program will outstrip available funding. Collecting achievement data on students, preparing a report for Congress on participants, and setting up data files for the long-term evaluation are the other major tasks required by the initial contract.

The department expects to award a second contract in June for the evaluation of the federally financed, five-year program, which is to provide $13 million annually for vouchers of up to $7,500 apiece to pay for students from low-income families to attend secular or religious private schools.

—Caroline Hendrie

New Director to Lead E.D.’s Technology Office

Susan D. Patrick has been named the director of educational technology at the Education Department, Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced last week.

Ms. Patrick, who will turn 34 this month, has been the acting director since February, when her predecessor, John P. Bailey, resigned to join President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Ms. Patrick said she had learned lessons from Mr. Bailey, whom she served as deputy for 18 months.

"John was really regarded for his ability to listen and have that open feedback in the department," she said in an interview. "That’s very important to me, too."

She said the office—which coordinates the department’s policy on technology, including developing the National Education Technology Plan—would continue focusing on how technology can support the No Child Left Behind Act, especially by exploring "virtual" professional development, distance learning, student-data management, and online assessments.

Originally from northern Virginia, Ms. Patrick has worked on state technology policy in Arizona and directed a distance- learning "campus" for Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Va.

She received a master’s degree from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in communication management, specializing in technology policy.

—Andrew Trotter

Court Declines to Review Administrators’ Bias Case

Two Texas school administrators who contended they were paid less than their white colleagues because of racial discrimination failed last week in their bid to have their case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Patricia Williams and Terri L. Watkins, both African-American women with high-ranking administrative positions in the Galveston, Texas, school district, argued in a 2002 federal lawsuit that they were paid less than the only other two co-workers in their pay grade because of racial bias.

They lost in a summary judgment in a federal district court, and last October, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, unanimously upheld that ruling.

The appeals panel found that the jobs held by Ms. Williams and Ms. Watkins were less demanding than those of the more highly paid administrators, undermining a critical element of their wage-discrimination allegations.

On March 29, the high court declined without comment to hear the women’s appeal in Williams v. Galveston Independent School District (Case No. 03-1060).

—Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 23, Issue 30, Page 24

Published in Print: April 7, 2004, as News in Brief
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