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Senate Continues Debate on Education Bill

This week, the Senate continued consideration of legislation (S. 1) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Senators on both sides of the aisle seemed to find common ground on the issue of education, approving a number of amendments that would authorize more funds for new and existing education programs.

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that would add $3 billion over six years to hire and train more teachers in schools with a high percentage of lower-income students was approved, 69-24.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) offered an amendment that would earmark $100 million in FY2002 to create 1,000 community tech-based centers around the country. Speaking on her amendment, Sen. Mikulski said, “The BEST Act creates a national goal to ensure that every child is computer literate by the 8th grade regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, geography, or disability. My amendment makes this goal a reality.” The amendment was narrowly approved, 50-49; Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was the only Senator to cross party lines.

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) sponsored an amendment that would modify the President’s proposal to use standardized tests to evaluate students in reading and math in grades 3-8 on an annual basis. Sen. Wellstone’s amendment would require states to use multiple tests, such as essays and classroom work, to measure student performance in reading and math. “Why in the world would you want to defy what every single person in the testing field says—that you should never rely on a single standardized test. You must have multiple measures.” The amendment was approved by the Senate, 50-47.

The Senate education bill differs widely from the House bill (H.R. 1) which leaves most of the President’s education proposal intact (see related story, p. 3). According to Senator James Jeffords (R-VT), Chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, approximately 280 amendments have been filed. The Senate plans to continue debate on the education bill next week.

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