Federal

Congress OKs Aid Based on ‘Rigorous’ H.S. Curricula

By Michelle R. Davis — February 07, 2006 3 min read

A bill to cut $40 billion out of the federal budget over five years narrowly won final passage in Congress last week, despite controversy over a college-grant program tucked inside the legislation that could give the secretary of education new powers over high school curricula.

The Deficit Reduction Act, which raises interest rates on federal student loans among a host of cuts to programs in many departments, passed the House on a vote of 216-214 on Feb. 1. The Senate passed it in December, and President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law.

But uncertainty remains over a $3.7 billion annual program of what some characterize as enhanced Pell Grants aimed at students from low-income families who have taken a “rigorous” high school curriculum. The bill, according to some observers, appears to give the secretary of education the authority to decide which high school curricula fit that definition. (“Bill Pushes ‘Rigorous’ Curricula,” Feb. 1, 2006.)

However, in a letter to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last week, the Republican chairmen of both the House and Senate education committees said that adding such authority was not the intent of the legislation.

“Some concern has arisen that this initiative will allow the secretary to become involved in establishing high school curriculum,” says the Feb. 1 letter from Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee until last week. “We want to be very clear that this was neither the intention nor the effect of the language in this bill.”

The letter asserts that the secretary’s only role in the process is to recognize that states, school districts, or other school authorities, including charter schools, private schools, or home schools, have established what they consider to be rigorous coursework.

Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a Feb. 2 e-mail that “we continue to believe that curriculum decisions are best left at the state and local levels and will be working with them to implement this proposal.”

A Rigorous Education

The grant program would seek to encourage high schoolers to pursue college-level studies in mathematics, science, and certain foreign languages. It would reward college freshmen and sophomores who had completed a “rigorous” high school program with grants ranging from $750 to $1,300 annually and juniors and seniors who pursue college majors in those subjects with grants of up to $4,000 per year.

The text of the grant legislation describes a “rigorous” high school course of study as one that is “recognized as such by the secretary,” language that has prompted concerns in some circles.

In an interview last month, Holly Kuzmich, the Education Department’s deputy assistant secretary for policy, said Secretary Spellings had no plans to sift through the curricula of thousands of U.S. high schools.

In their letter to the secretary, Reps. Boehner and Enzi stressed their belief that not only does the bill not give the secretary new authority to “establish curriculum, we assert that federal law prohibits this.”

The letter cites the General Education Provisions Act, a federal statute that outlines the mission of the Education Department and prohibits it from becoming directly involved in local curriculum issues, among other things.

In addition, the lawmakers’ letter addresses a concern that the language of the college-aid provision would prohibit charter schools, private schools, and home schools from qualifying their high school curricula as “rigorous.” However, both the Education Department and the two education leaders in Congress say they believe that’s not the case.

“Simply put,” Reps. Boehner and Enzi state, “all students from charter, private, and home schools are eligible, as long as the coursework they study meets the rigorous standards established by the state, local educational agency, or school.”

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Cardona Admonishes Governors Who Ban Mask Mandates, Says 'All Teachers' Want Schools Open
At a White House press conference, the education secretary said schools have sufficient resources and experience to operate safely.
5 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott after a tour of Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School in Baltimore on Aug. 4, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott after a tour of Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School in Baltimore this week.
Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun via TNS
Federal As New COVID Concerns Emerge, Biden Administration Keeps Focus on School Reopenings
Amid new COVID-19 concerns, the Biden administration kept its focus on in-person learning, stressing the need for safety precautions.
2 min read
Image of a student holding a mask and a backpack near the entrance of a classroom.
E+
Federal Biden Calls on Schools to Host COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics for Kids 12 and Up
The president is focusing on vaccinating children ages 12 and older as concerns grow about the Delta variant and its impact on schools.
2 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on June 2.
Evan Vucci/AP
Federal How Political Backlash to Critical Race Theory Reached School Reopening Guidance
A lawmaker wants Miguel Cardona to repudiate the Abolitionist Teaching Network after federal COVID-19 documents referenced the group's work.
6 min read
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.<br/>
Graeme Sloan/SIPA USA via AP