S 2 -- 05/01/2000

May 1, 2000

S. 2 - Educational Opportunities Act
(Sen. Jeffords (R) VT and 7 others)

The Administration opposes Senate passage of S. 2, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as reported by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. If S. 2 is presented to the President in its current form, he will veto the bill because it fails to continue the Federal obligation and commitment to support reform in our schools and real improvements in student performance, particularly among our neediest students and in our neediest communities. The Administration has a number of serious objections to S. 2. It would:

  • Weaken accountability. The bill fails to encourage each State to develop a single, rigorous accountability system for Title I and non-Title I schools. Moreover, the bill does not include the basic components of the President's Education Accountability initiative. Notably, it would: (1) not require school report cards; (2) fail to end social promotion and traditional retention practices; (3) not require all teachers to be certified and teaching in their field, or be in the process of becoming certified; (4) fail to establish sound, equitable discipline policies in every school; and (5) not guarantee resources targeted on the lowest performing schools to help States and localities turn them around or shut them down. The bill also would not extend the current ban on the possession or use of tobacco on school grounds to include alcohol and drugs.

  • Undermine the Federal effort to help communities reduce class size in the early grades. The bill fails to provide a separate, dedicated funding stream for that purpose that is targeted to high-poverty communities, consistent with the bipartisan agreement reflected in the Department of Education's appropriations acts for each of the past two years. Research has shown that students attending smaller classes in the early grades make more rapid educational progress, with the greatest benefits accruing to lower-achieving, minority, and poor children. The bill instead creates a block grant that fails to guarantee that any funding will be used for hiring new teachers to reduce class size.

  • Fail to recognize the importance of high-quality teaching. The bill does little to improve teacher quality, either through increased accountability or by ensuring that teachers meet high standards and have access to ongoing, high-quality professional development, mentoring, and coaching. In addition, schools should be held accountable for supporting high-quality instruction by publicly reporting on teacher quality indicators.

  • Undermine standards-based reform and the Title I program for disadvantaged children by allowing 10 States and 20 school districts to convert their Title I funds into portable student vouchers that could be used for private education services. The Administration's opposition to school vouchers is well known. Rather than improving and reforming public schools, vouchers drain attention and resources from the neediest public schools. By diverting funds into programs that are not accountable for results, vouchers would fragment services and jeopardize the promising recent gains States, school districts, and schools have made through standards-based reforms.

  • Convert programs that address national priorities into unfocused block grants. The ''Straight A's'' proposals would allow States to consolidate funds designated for Title I activities, class-size reduction, professional development, technology programs, and other initiatives into a massive block grant with no meaningful accountability. Governors could use the money for any ''educational purposes,'' including providing students with vouchers for private schools. Moreover, there is no assurance that funds will go to improve instruction, strengthen curriculum, reduce class size, provide after-school learning opportunities, or support other proven strategies for helping all students learn to high standards.

  • Fail to provide adequate assistance to communities facing the enormous burden of renovating aging schools. The President's Budget for FY 2001 proposes a $1.3 billion initiative to provide grants and loan subsidies for high-need districts to support the renovation of up to 5,000 schools. The bill should authorize this assistance.

  • Fail to target funds to school districts that are facing the greatest challenges and have the fewest local resources for meeting those challenges without Federal assistance. While targeting of funds to high-poverty districts has been a part of the Federal role ever since the initial passage of the ESEA in 1965, the current statute still does not concentrate resources sufficiently on those districts. Therefore, the President proposed amendments to tighten targeting in several of the major programs. S. 2 would, in many respects, be a significant step backwards.

  • Fail to provide adequate funding or focus for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide students with extended learning opportunities before and after school in safe and drug-free environments. S. 2 would authorize only half of the one billion dollars requested by the President for fiscal year 2001 for this important and widely supported program. It also would fail to provide a needed emphasis on after-school and other extended learning opportunities.

The Administration also has a number of other significant concerns with the bill, including the following:

Title I: Helping Disadvantaged Students Meet High Standards -- lack of requirements for certification of new Title I teachers; failure to increase minimum education levels of paraprofessionals; insufficient allocations for professional development and for program accountability; insufficient targeting of funds; and failure to allocate funds for needy children in Puerto Rico on the same basis as is used for the rest of the country.

Title II: Teacher Quality -- failure to award half of professional development funds competitively in order to promote high quality projects; insufficient emphasis on in-service professional development; abandonment of current emphasis on math and science; failure to provide for programs of national interest, such as the President's proposed programs of Early Childhood Professional Development and recruitment of "home town" teachers; and an insufficient duration of support for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Title IV: Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities -- insufficient emphasis on promoting targeting to high-need districts and on ensuring accountability and effectiveness; a very cumbersome mechanism for the administration of national programs; failure to provide a separate authorization for Project SERV; and failure to include requirements for the referral of expelled students for evaluation and mental health services if needed, or for school districts to establish policies to provide expelled students with appropriate services to continue their education. The Administration opposes the provision of the bill that would deny attorney's fees to plaintiffs who demonstrate in court that certain on-campus memorials or memorial services violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because such a provision not only raises constitutional concerns as impermissible viewpoint discrimination, it would also undermine the important and long-standing national policy of encouraging private enforcement of our civil rights laws.

Title V-A (current Title III): Technology -- failure to: (1) target adequately the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund on high-need districts; (2) authorize separately, and at adequate levels, the current Community Technology Centers and Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology programs; and (3) encourage the development or use of innovative and emerging technologies.

Title VI, Part B: Rural Education Initiative -- substantially weakens accountability for small, rural school districts that would be eligible to consolidate funds.

Title VII, Part B: Foreign Language Assistance Program -- failure to improve the program by, for example, focusing it on the early grades, where research suggests that second languages are better and more quickly learned.

Title VIII: Impact Aid -- failure to target funds to school districts most genuinely burdened by the presence of Federally connected children and Federal property.

Title IX, Part A: Indian Education -- creation of an unnecessary and burdensome authority to allow grantees to consolidate resources from across Federal programs.

Pay-As-You-Go Scoring

S. 2 would increase direct spending and receipts; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB estimates that the net pay-as-you-go effect would be zero.