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Senate Puts Education Bill on Hold

Senate action remains unfinished on a bill (S. 2) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (see The Source, 5/5/00, p. 1). The bill was pulled from the floor by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), who announced that action will resume during the week of May 15.

Before the bill was pulled, the Senate on May 9 approved, 97-0, an amendment by Sens. Lott and Judd Gregg (R-NH) to provide extra liability protection for teachers and other school staff who discipline or restrain disruptive students. Also on May 9, the Senate defeated, 84-13, a substitute amendment presented by a group of lawmakers known as the New Democrats. The substitute was presented as a middle-of-the-road alternative to the Republican-sponsored S. 2 and to a Democratic substitute amendment, which was rejected along party lines on May 3. With Republicans holding a tight majority in the Senate, the efforts of the nine-member coalition have drawn considerable attention.

Sen. Lott said that the bill was set aside temporarily to allow Senators to move an unrelated measure pertaining to trade with Africa and the Caribbean. Democrats claimed, however, that action was delayed to prevent consideration of gun-control amendments just before a weekend rally in favor of stricter gun laws.

Democrats have indicated that they still intend to offer gun-control amendments when debate resumes. In addition, amendments related to gender equity in education are expected when debate on S. 2 continues.

S. 2 would reauthorize the Women’s Educational Equity Act (WEEA), which is designed to help school districts and educators meet the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational programs or activities at institutions receiving federal funds (see The Source, 10/22/00, p. 1).

However, Sens. Kennedy and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are expected to offer an amendment with language allowing schools to consider gender in relation to education technology, school safety, teacher training, and dropout prevention. Some of the language is contained in current law but not included in S. 2.

In addition, Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) is expected to offer an amendment to alter the requirements for single-sex public education. Under current law, federal funds can be spent on single-sex classrooms and schools as long as equal opportunities are offered for students of the other sex. Sen. Hutchinson’s amendment would change “equal” to “comparable” (see The Source, 4/14/00, p. 3).

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