September 17, 1998
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3248, as reported by the Committee
on Education and the Workforce. If the bill were presented to the
President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto it.
H.R. 3248 would convert a wide array of Federal education programs that address national priorities into a single, unfocused block grant program providing general aid for education. The bill would eliminate programs that focus on our neediest children and schools, and on activities in which national leadership can play a critical role. For example, it would eliminate programs that help States and school districts raise educational standards and achievement for students, improve the quality of teaching, bring the benefits of technology to our Nation's students, and increase the availability of after-school programs.
Block grants would replace these worthy programs with general aid for school operations, which is the responsibility of States and communities, with no attention to areas of national need. In addition, the bill contains inadequate mechanisms to: (1) hold States and communities accountable for their use of taxpayer funds; (2) hold schools and school systems accountable for results; and (3) give the Administration and Congress information with which to evaluate the block grant program's performance.
H.R. 3248 is also objectionable because the "Ed-Flex" provisions that would extend authority to waive Federal requirements to all States lack the critical ingredient of the current program in which 12 States participate: meaningful accountability, connected to high standards and expectations for all children. The Administration supports expansion of the Ed-Flex program to additional States, but only when the links to challenging academic standards, high expectations for all children, and accountability for results are strong and clear.
The Administration strongly supports Representative Clay's amendment in the nature of a substitute, which would promote class-size reduction and improved teacher quality, along the lines proposed by the President earlier this year. The Clay substitute would provide much-needed assistance to help States and local school disctricts recruit, train, and hire 100,000 additional well-prepared teachers in order to reduce the average class size to 18 in grades 1 through 3 in our Nation's public schools. Rigorous research confirms what parents and teachers have long believed -- that students in smaller classes, especially in the early grades, make greater educational gains and maintain those gains over time.