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House Committee Completes ESEA Mark-Up

Following a contentious five-day mark-up, the House Education and the Workforce Committee on April 13 approved, 25-21, a bill (H.R. 4141) designed to complete its reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The mark-up of H.R. 4141, which began on April 5 (see The Source, 4/7/00, p. 3), reflected the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats on education policy. The bill would reauthorize the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act and other programs related to drug and violence prevention, technology programs, programs designed to encourage innovation in education, arts programs, civics education programs, and charter school programs.

It would allow school districts to transfer up to 35 percent of the funds from one program to another without special approval by the state. School districts also could transfer up to 100 percent of a program’s funds with special permission from the state. The provision would bar school districts from transferring funds out of programs administered under the ESEA’s Title I, which serves disadvantaged and low-income students. However, funds could be transferred from other programs into Title I.

Democratic opponents of the bill offered a number of amendments aimed at curbing the effects of this provision and proposed others to reflect their policy priorities, with many of the votes falling along party lines.

Several amendments were related to gender. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) offered as an amendment a bill (H.R. 2387) that would create a $50 million grant program for states and school districts to encourage girls to pursue studies and careers in engineering, science, technology, and math. Rep. Woolsey said the programs would focus on girls in grades 4-12, citing a recent study by the American Association of University Women that found technology and science classes are not sufficiently geared toward teaching girls. The study also found that women currently hold about 20 percent of the nation’s information technology jobs, less than 28 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in computer science, and 9 percent of the engineering-related bachelor’s degrees.

Rep. Woolsey also asserted that her amendment would help alleviate the current shortage of high-tech workers. “This will reduce our demand for special visas to recruit workers from other countries in this area,” she said.

Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) commented in favor of the amendment, saying that women should be encouraged to enter fields dominated by men. “The reality is that we only have one woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” he said, adding: “Female role models are as important for young men as for young women if we are going to change our culture.”

However, Rep. Goodling and several other Republicans criticized the amendment. “There are already programs designed to encourage students in learning technology,” Rep. Goodling said, adding that there are many studies showing no disparity between boys and girls in access to computers and technology education.

Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) also noted that the amendment did not specify offsets for the grant program. He reminded the committee that Republicans are opposed to expanding the role of the federal Department of Education. The amendment was defeated, 21-22.

Rep. Woolsey offered another amendment designed to clarify federal policy regarding spending for single-sex public schools. The amendment would have stated that federal funds can be spent on single-sex classrooms and schools as long as equal opportunities are offered for students of the other sex. Under H.R. 4141, “comparable” opportunities—rather than “equal” opportunities—are required.

Rep. Woolsey and other committee Democrats described the comparable standard as inadequate, citing the Supreme Court case United States v. Virginia, which found Virginia Military Institute lacking in comparable opportunities for female students. Rep. Woolsey said the amendment would ensure that federal education programs are “consistent with the Constitution and Title IX.”

However, Rep. Goodling and other Republicans expressed objections to the amendment. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) said schools should have more flexiblity than the equal standard would allow, adding: “There are unique learning styles determined by gender and it is illogical to require equal settings and programs for both sexes.” The amendment was defeated, 20-25.

Another amendment offered by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) would have created a $10 million grant program to train teachers and administrators to identify and prevent sexual harassment and abuse in schools. The amendment also would have added statistics on sexual harassment to the list of objective data that states are required to report to the federal government. Rep. Mink described the amendment as essential, noting that schools are not currently required to supply that data or track sexual harassment.

However, Rep. Goodling objected to creating a new program, adding that the bill already requires schools to encourage “character education” and “personal responsibility” among students. The amendment was defeated, 22-23.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered an amendment to reinstate a provision in current law providing $5 million annually for anti-bias and hate crimes prevention programs. Rep. Scott said the programs “seek to reduce acts of youth violence motivated by prejudice based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Rep. Woolsey spoke in favor of the amendment, saying the programs help “attack the problem of hate-motivated violence” before it happens.

However, Rep. Souder said the committee should not approve the amendment “for the sake of political correctness,” adding that the hate crimes provision is not germane to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act reauthorization. Rep. Goodling echoed that position, stating that other laws already govern hate crimes. The amendment was defeated, 23-24.

Several other amendments were debated during the week of April 10, including:

  • an amendment by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) to require the Department of Education to collect and report data on the use of guns in schools, which was approved by voice vote;
  • an amendment by Rep. McCarthy to allow schools to distribute brochures or hold conferences on gun safety, which was approved by voice vote;
  • an amendment by Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) to provide education and mental health services for disabled students who bring guns to school, rather than expelling them like other students, which was approved by voice vote;
  • an amendment by Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) to prohibit cigarette machines in schools or at school-sponsored events, which was approved by voice vote;
  • an amendment by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) to allow the use of public education funds for a student transferring from a failing public school to a religious or private school, which was defeated, 22-23;
  • an amendment by Rep. Andrews to establish a preschool program for children whose families do not qualify for Head Start or Even Start programs, which was defeated, 19-26;
  • an amendment by Rep. McCarthy to authorize an additional $1 billion for the 21st Century Learning Centers program, which was defeated, 21-25;
  • an amendment by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) to add the incidence of sexual abuse and race-related incidents to the determinations for distributing Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act funds, which was defeated, 21-24; and
  • an amendment by Reps. Woolsey and Ron Kind (D-WI) to encourage comprehensive education, health, and social services programs through schools, which was defeated, 20-27.
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