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House Considers Education Bill

The House on May 17 began debate on legislation (H.R. 1) that would reauthorize most of the federal education programs.

Based on the President’s education plan, the bill would require annual tests in reading and math for students in grades 3-8 and would give states and local school districts more flexibility in implementing federal education programs in exchange for accountability for raising student achievement.

This week, the House only considered the rule and general debate on the bill. Next week, the House will debate 29 amendments to the bill, including one, sponsored by House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) that would restore the voucher proposal to allow federal education funds to be used for private schools; one, also offered by Rep. Armey, that would block grant federal school aid to states with few strings attached; and one, offered by Reps. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and Barney Frank (D-MA), that would strip from the bill the language requiring annual tests in reading and math for students in grades 3-8.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Boehner (R-OH) praised the bill for meeting most of the proposals in the President’s education plan, “It challenges States to set high standards for public schools, demanding accountability for results. It provides unprecedented flexibility to local districts, letting them make spending decisions instead of letting Washington make decisions for them.”

“This bill is not perfect,” said Rep.George Miller (D-CA), adding “I think this bill in its current form represents a major step forward. I think it would be a mistake for us to miss the opportunity to do the things we are capable of doing now because we cannot do everything right away.”

Some members were disappointed that the Rules Committee did not allow more amendments. “I oppose this rule. I oppose the process it represents, and I oppose the duplicity by which this rule came about,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) “Nearly 150 amendments were submitted for this major legislative initiative, and only a handful have been made in order.”

Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) said, “This is the world-renowned legislative body that everybody looks to in terms of being able to come to grips with the major issues of our times and to debate them on both sides of the aisle.” She added, “We are being deprived of that opportunity by this rule which prevents the minority from presenting these two amendments having to do with school construction and class size, the two most important issues that affect almost all of our school districts.”

Speaking in support of the rule, Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) responded, “I am deeply disappointed to hear that the partisanship that we put aside in the committee deliberations is unfairly raising its head on this rule debate.” She continued, “I believe that we have considered all of the issues that genuinely were the core of the education program and that, in the tradition of our fine democracy, they are included in this rule.”

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