May 9, 2001
Administration supports Senate passage of S. 1, which reflects the
themes of "No Child Left Behind", the President's comprehensive proposal
to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA),
and urges the Senate to refine the bill to include additional elements
of that proposal, while maintaining fiscal discipline. The Administration
is pleased that S. 1, as reported by the Committee on Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions, incorporates many of the basic components of
the President's key proposals to: (1) require States to conduct annual
testing in reading and math for students in grades 3 through 8, to
help States, schools, and parents know who is on track and who needs
extra help; (2) consolidate numerous programs relating to teacher
quality, educational technology, and choice and innovation into three
performance-based grants to States that would allow States and local
school districts to direct Federal funds where they are most needed;
and (3) establish new "Reading First" and "Early Reading First" programs
to support scientifically-based methods to ensure that all children
can read by the end of third grade, making reading the foundation
of education reform. Further, the Administration is pleased that a
consensus has developed to make improvements to the Committee reported
However, the Administration strongly opposes the costly and unwarranted amendment to convert special education funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to direct spending. The Administration recognizes the challenges faced by States and localities in carrying out their responsibility to educate children with disabilities; the Budget provides a $1 billion increase in FY 2002 for IDEA grants to States, by far the largest increase ever proposed in a President's Budget, and a solid foundation from which to improve the program to better focus on quality and educational results for children with disabilities. But the amendment would undermine fiscal discipline by removing the program from the appropriations process and increasing Federal spending for special education far in excess of the President's Budget over the next ten years, with no attention to improving educational results for these children. The Administration believes that special education issues could be better addressed within the context of a thorough review of the IDEA, not through a floor amendment on the ESEA bill.
The Administration would make the following additional comments.
Additional Concerns. Title VII of S. 1 would, authorize education grants to, or for the benefit of, people who are classified as Native Hawaiians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and other Alaska Natives, which may raise constitutional questions.
Amendments on Class Size Reduction and School Renovation. The Administration understands that amendments may be offered to add additional programs to the ESEA, including class-size reduction and school construction. The Administration strongly opposes including these programs, and other programs not provided for in the President's budget, in S. 1. Decisions regarding whether to invest in reducing the size of classes or renovating schools are best made at the local level. The Administration's teacher quality proposal provides both sufficient flexibility and funding for States and districts to implement a variety of strategies to improve teaching, including class-size reduction. The Administration is committed to ensuring that local districts determine what works best for them, rather than prescribing a required set of activities. Repair and modernization of schools is primarily a State and local responsibility. In fact, the creation of a Federal grant program may have a detrimental effect on the infrastructure of our nation's schools by giving localities an excuse to defer funding for school repairs based on the false hope that Federal funds will become available.
The Administration urges the Senate to amend S. 1 to address the concerns outlined above, as well as other concerns with the Committee bill.