April 22, 1998

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Vol. 17, Issue 32
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In the media maelstrom surrounding the proposal to diversify the San Francisco school district's required reading list, I found myself in a unique, complicated, and eye-opening position. ("S.F. Board Rejects Race Quotas for Literature," March 25, 1998.)
The U.S. Constitution assigns to Congress the authority and the responsibility to pass laws that implement its intent. With regard to the application of the 14th Amendment to equal educational opportunity, I recommend we do just that. At this time last year, I introduced the proposed Equal Protection School Finance Act, HR 1234, which defines equal educational opportunity as a covered right under the 14th Amendment. Passage of this bill would clarify the intent of the Constitution.
Back in 1981, a distinguished group of 18 Americans got together for a two-year study of the country's schools. Among them were four college presidents, several scientists, some school principals, other educationists, a card-carrying economist, a former governor and congressman, and one schoolteacher. They had been invited by Terrel H. Bell, the U.S. secretary of education in President Reagan's Cabinet, to report to him on the quality of education in the United States.
The Hong Kong bird flu is nothing compared to the epidemic of "programmitis" that infects Washington today with regard to education. The president has proposed dozens of new federal programs. Bills already introduced in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives would create dozens more. Sizable sums of money are being tossed around. My advice, after 30-plus years in the education field and almost as many inside the Capital Beltway, is to be very, very cautious.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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