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What Really is Goals 2000?

by Lance T. Izumi and Natalie Williams

Few topics in recent years have inflamed parents and grassroots education activists as the Clinton administration■s Goals 2000: Educate America Act, passed in 1994. Although the law■s supporters contend that Goals 2000 is merely a helpful attempt to increase academic standards in K-12 education, the authors of this study find that in any common sensical reading of the law, power is transferred from state and local education authorities to the federal bureaucracy in Washington.

The law makes mandatory a wide variety of federal dictates, controls education■s purse strings, requires national standards, issues federal "skill certificates," imposes new regulations, and manipulates state and local assessments. In so doing, Goals 2000 radically alters the education decisionmaking landscape by centralizing policymaking at the federal level, leaving the states and localities to carry out Washington■s dictates.

  • Drafters of the Goals 2000 law use the command "will" at least forty-five times in describing what the federal government expects states and local districts to do to accomplish the Act■s eight national goals. The more permissive ■should■ is used only three times.

  • Goals 2000 creates a wide variety of bureaucracies (e.g., the National Goals Panel, regional education laboratories, federal education research institutes, etc.) which are endowed with wide ■advocacy■ powers in order to get states and localities to implement the national goals and objectives contained in the Act.

  • Once a state accepts federal Goals 2000 money, it must implement the national goals and objectives of Goals 2000. According to the Act, any state that applies for Goals 2000 funding must devise a state improvement plan that incorporates "strategies for meeting the National Education Goals."

  • Through its control of the purse, the federal government will increase its influence over school curricula. Washington explicitly recommends that states include "gender equitable and multicultural materials" in its improvement strategies.

  • Goals 2000 tells states how to cut their education pie and in some cases even dictates the size of the pie (the level of spending) and mandates what social services schools are to provide on campus.

  • Goals 2000 creates a National Skills Standards Board that will endorse a broad spectrum of skills standards to be considered by business and employers when hirng. The related School-to-Work law strongly encourages states to issue "skill certificates" to students who supposedly have met the skills standards promulgated by the National Skills Standards Board. Schools and students who refuse to participate in the skill-certificate program will be at a disadvantage in the job market.

  • Even though compliance with Goals 2000 is "voluntary" for states, the law holds disadvantaged children hostage to its dictates. Goals 2000 requires states that receive federal money under the Improving America■s Schools Act of 1994 (IASA) to align state assessments, curriculum, and professional teacher development programs with the standards contained in the Goals 2000 law. California is slated to receive more than $1 billion in IASA money in 1995-96.

    The above is the executive summary of a 28-page report on Goals 2000 published by the Claremont Institute, 1127 Eleventh St., Suite 206, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 446-7924.

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