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Education Reporter

Education Bill Maintains Federal Control of Schools
WASHINGTON, DC - The 987-page federal education bill (H.R.1/S.1 - still in conference as we go to press) includes language from the Goals 2000 legislation (H.R.6) enacted in 1994. Education analysts tell Education Reporter that the bill requires all states to develop and implement content and performance standards and aligned assessment tests. H.R.1 allocates grants to states to put those standards in place, allotting the same amount of money per state as H.R.6 did in 1994: $400 million (H.R.1, Title VII, Section 7104).

This means that the stated purpose of Goals 2000 (systemic education change throughout the country), originally launched through grants to every state in exchange for setting that change in motion, is continued and completed in H.R.1.

Titles I and VII of H.R.1 cover accountability, but not to parents or local schools. A few examples:

  • Each state's education plan must be approved by the Federal Secretary of Education (Title 1).

  • Each state must implement state standards mandated by Goals 2000 (Title 1). A few changes were made to the House bill allowing states to rewrite their standards, but the federal government would still require that each state's plan be on file.

  • Students must be profiled by government (Title 1).

  • All public school students must take the state tests, many of which are subjective and "politically correct." (See Education Reporter December 2000 and November 1999.)

NAEP — New National Test? 
S.1 mandates the NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) for each state, along with federal rewards and sanctions, which will inevitably lead to a national curriculum as teachers prepare students to do well on the tests.

At a meeting of the nation's governors last month, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating said states are so concerned about this proposal that some "may opt out" and accept what he called a slight financial penalty for noncompliance.

The NAEP has experienced credibility problems in recent years, raising serious questions about its ability to avoid politicization and to test all children adequately and fairly, including those with disabilities. (See Education Reporter, July 2000.)

Another concern is NAEP's cost. "NAEP tests cost $100 per student, and it takes a year-and-a-half to get the results back," points out Eagle Forum education policy analyst Kristina Twitty. "By that time, students are halfway through their next school year. By contrast, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) costs $5-8 per student and takes six weeks for results. The NAEP tests have been dumbed down in comparison to the ITBS."

Akin & Graham-Tiahrt Amendments 
Two amendments to H.R.1 would restore a measure of parental control to the federal education leviathan. Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) "Objectivity Amendment" requires that academic tests be based on objective, measurable and widely accepted professional testing, and that assessment standards exclude the personal opinions, attitudes or beliefs of students. This amendment was adopted in the House by voice vote.

The Graham-Tiahrt Parental Freedom of Information Amendment strengthens the rights of parents of elementary and secondary public school students. It allows for parental access to curriculum, including textbooks, audio/visual materials, manuals, films and supplementary materials, and ensures that students cannot be required to take a survey requesting personal information without parental consent. It also requires parental consent before students can undergo any medical or psychiatric examinations, testing or treatment.

According to the Constitutional Coalition, H.R.1/S.1 as it currently stands "does not at all resemble the original proposal by President Bush." The original proposal included school choice for families in failing schools and much more local control. "The only thing protecting local integrity in teaching is the Akin Amendment pending in the House which would require that the assessments be objective and not politically correct."

"The problem, however," the Coalition spokesman adds, "is that within the bill itself are requirements mandating that politically-correct standards already in process be adhered to. The Graham Tiahrt amendment is a positive move to open the textbooks, curricula and teachers guides to parents and to require advance permission to administer invasive questionnaires."

Many education research organizations have also expressed concern about the bill's section on safe schools, which contains language they describe as "vague enough to require that homosexuality not only be tolerated but taught in the schools in the name of safety and self esteem, similar to the new mandates in California." (See Education Reporter, May & June 2001.)

Finally, the Constitutional Coalition predicts that the proposed full funding for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) will not provide any additional help for truly disabled children. "Historically, you get what you pay for, and if you raise the amount of funding available to local schools for labeling children 'disabled,' you will get more disabled children. The inherent problem is that the definition of 'disability' is not limited to actual physical disabilities, such as hearing or eyesight, but opens the door for the nebulous new growth industry of behavior disabilities, including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)."

"It is very important," stresses Kristina Twitty, "that the word 'academic' precede the word 'standards' in the entire education bill, to prevent the growth of School-to-Work and tech classes over the basics."

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