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
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.
Administration would make the following additional comments.
Option for Private School Choice and/or Supplemental Services.
The Administration is pleased that S. 1 permits students in persistently
failing schools to transfer to better public schools, and that
it requires school districts to provide transportation for these
students to their new schools. The Administration is also pleased
that agreement has been reached to allow parents to use public
funds to obtain supplemental services for these children, but
this amendment does not go far enough. The Administration strongly
urges the Senate to further amend S. 1 to require districts to
provide funds to parents of students in failing schools that those
parents can use to enroll their children in private schools.
Appropriation Authorization Levels. The total appropriation
authorizations contained in S. 1, as reported, exceed the President's
total request for elementary and secondary education programs
by over $9 billion for FY 2002. The Administration has produced
a responsible Budget that includes significant increases for key
education programs while also maintaining fiscal discipline government-wide.
The Administration urges the Senate to pass a bill that is closely
aligned with the President's Budget.
Flexibility for States and School Districts. The Administration
is pleased that agreement has been reached to include a pilot
program to allow interested States and school districts added
flexibility in using Federal funds in exchange for meeting specific
goals for increased student performance, as the President proposed.
Trigger for State Assessments. The Administration is pleased
that agreement has been reached to improve a provision in the
reported bill that would permit States to delay implementation
of annual assessments in grades 3 through 8 if Congress does not
provide a certain level of funds to pay for States to develop
these tests. However, the Administration continues to have serious
reservations about the funding "trigger" for implementation of
these assessments. Annual assessments are the centerpiece of the
Administration's proposal to improve accountability. Delaying
their implementation would significantly weaken efforts to improve
student performance and create uncertainty among States and districts
about what they are expected to have in place. The Budget requests
$320 million for a new State assessments program, which demonstrates
a major Federal commitment to help States, many of which have
already invested heavily in developing high-quality assessments,
ensure improved accountability.
Authorities. S. 1 should be amended to remove unrequested
authorities and repeal those that the Administration has determined
to be ineffective or unnecessary. The President's ESEA proposal
is based on streamlining and simplifying the plethora of existing
education programs so that States and school districts can better
address their own needs. As a result, the President's FY 2002
Budget consolidates dozens of programs into flexible, performance-based
grants. S. 1 should be amended to reflect these consolidations
and to eliminate any unrequested authorities.
Education. The Administration is pleased that an agreement
has been reached to consolidate bilingual and immigrant programs
into a State formula-grant program at a certain funding level,
in place of the current fragmented structure of competitive grants
to individual school districts. The Administration continues to
believe that the bill should also hold States accountable for
ensuring that LEP students attain English proficiency within three
Partnerships. The President's Budget provides funds for this
program within the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF has
effectively administered other activities related to this initiative
and the Administration believes that NSF's expertise will be invaluable
in ensuring a successful program. The Administration therefore
urges the Senate to amend S. 1 to eliminate this authority from
the ESEA, enabling NSF to administer this initiative.
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
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.
Administration urges the Senate to amend S. 1 to address the concerns
outlined above, as well as other concerns with the Committee bill.