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Senate Approves Education Bill by Wide Margin

After seven weeks of intermittent debate, the Senate approved, 91-8, education reform legislation (S. 1) that would reauthorize federal education programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for the next five years. Six Republicans, including Sens. Jesse Helms (R-NC), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and two Democrats, Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC), voted against the bill. The House passed similar legislation (H.R. 1) on May 23 (see The Source, May 25, p. 1).

Like the House-passed legislation, the Senate bill is a partial blueprint of the President’s education plan. The bill would require states to administer annual math and reading tests for students in grades 3-8 and would give local school districts flexibility in using federal dollars while holding them accountable for improved student achievement. Schools with the poorest test scores would be given additional funding, but if the schools failed to improve after two years, low-income students would be able to transfer to other public schools.

Both the House and the Senate rejected amendments that would have included vouchers of up to $1,500 for low-income students to attend private or religious schools. Instead, both bills would allow low-income students in failing schools to use federal funds for private tutoring services.

There are, however, major differences between the House-passed and the Senate-passed bills. The Senate bill would authorize an increase of $11.5 billion in spending for education programs under the ESEA, bringing the total expenditures in FY2002 to approximately $30 billion. The House bill would authorize a $4 billion increase for similar programs for a total of $22.6 billion in FY2002.

The Senate bill would authorize an increase of $181 billion over 10 years for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This increase would cover 40 percent of state and local school district costs for special education programs, constituting full funding of the Act. The House bill does not have a comparable provision.

Additionally, the Senate bill would provide a demonstration program that would block grant federal funds allowing seven states and 25 school districts to use the money with few restrictions in return for improved student performance. The House bill has no comparable provision.

During this past week, the Senate continued debate on amendments to S. 1 (see The Source, 5/4/01, p.1; 5/11/01, p.1; 5/18/01, p. 5; 6/8/01, p. 1).

On June 12, the Senate rejected, 42-58, an amendment by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) that would have required states to provide the same quality of educational services in low-income areas as they do in high-income districts.

On the same day, the Senate adopted, 93-0, an amendment by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) that would strengthen early childhood parent education programs and would expand the definition of pre-school-aged children to include children from birth through the age of 5.

Also on June 12, the Senate adopted, 52-46, an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would allow the Department of Education to provide grants to local school districts to build smaller schools for fewer students.

On June 13, the Senate rejected, 47-51, another amendment by Sen. Dodd that would have prevented federal money for after-school programs from being included in block grant funding to states.

On June 14, the Senate approved, 51-49, an amendment by Sen. Helms that would withhold funds from any schools that deny access to the Boy Scouts on the basis of the organization’s views on sexual orientation. Shortly thereafter, the Senate adopted, 52-47, a clarifying amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would ensure that the Boy Scouts, as well as other youth groups, have equal access to public school facilities regardless of the organization’s “favorable or unfavorable position concerning sexual orientation.”

The following amendments were approved by unanimous consent throughout the week:

  • an amendment by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) to establish local family information centers to ensure that parents of students in schools have the training, information, and support that parents need to participate effectively in their children’s elementary and secondary education;
  • an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) to provide grants to state and local educational agencies to improve student achievement through greater parental involvement;
  • an amendment by Sen. Benjamin Nelson (D-NE) to promote and support mentoring programs to assist children with the greatest need;
  • an amendment by Sen. Dodd to provide for early childhood educator professional development;
  • an amendment by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) to promote greater parental involvement and parental choice in their children’s education;
  • an amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to allow schools to discipline a student with a disability in the same manner as a non-disabled student;
  • an amendment by Sen. Boxer expressing the sense of the Senate on providing the necessary funding for after-school programs;
  • an amendment by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to establish an exception to the prohibition on segregating homeless students;
  • an amendment by Sens. Dodd and Richard Shelby (R-AL) to increase parental involvement and protect student privacy;
  • an amendment by Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT) to improve the Early Reading First Program;
  • an amendment by Sen. Jeffords to maintain funding for IDEA;
  • an amendment by Sen. Reed to support the use of education technology to enhance and facilitate meaningful parental involvement to improve student learning; and
  • an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to provide for the establishment of additional Boys and Girls Clubs of America.


The Senate also defeated an amendment by Sen. Hollings that would have waived certain testing requirements by a vote of 22-78. Another amendment by Sen. Gregg that would have provided for a low-income school choice demonstration program was also defeated, 41-58.

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