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a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
September 2002

The History of Goals 2000

What is Goals 2000?

The Eight National Goals

1. By the year 2000, all children will start school ready to learn.

2. By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.

3. By the year 2000, all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our Nation's modern economy.

4. By the year 2000, the Nation’s teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century.

5. By the year 2000, United States students will be the first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.

6. By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

7. By the year 2000, every school in the United States will be free of drugs, violence and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.

8. By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.


In 1989, a coalition of state governors concerned about the ailing state of America's public schools proposed a solution: "Goals 2000." This program would set educational goals for the nation's public schools to be achieved by the year 2000, create a framework for implementing the goals, and provide incentives for the states to cooperate in meeting the goals.

By 1994, the eight national goals were in place and Goals 2000 was an official federal program.

On the surface, these goals to improve America's schools were unobjectionable. But many conservatives, including homeschoolers, identified dangerous pitfalls in Goals 2000.

First, although Goals 2000 was presented to the states as a program in which they could "voluntarily" participate, opting out meant passing up significant federal funds as well. However, the states found quite a few mandates hidden in the small print, requiring them to:

  • submit grant proposals;
  • submit "improvement plans" for the U.S. Secretary of Education's approval;
  • receive penalties for failure to comply with their own improvement plans;
  • form "partnerships" between local schools, businesses, and institutions of higher education; and
  • coordinate their Goals 2000 efforts with School-to-Work and other social reform programs.
Second, the program followed the unconstitutional pattern of shifting control of education from parents and local school officials to Washington, D.C. Conservatives also criticized Goals 2000 for establishing public schools as the coordinators and monitors of various social and welfare services for children. Although the legislation did not directly address home education, homeschoolers recognized that public school policies—especially at the national level—often end up as private and home education regulations.

The Opposition

The National Center of Home Education, the federal lobbying division of Home School Legal Defense Association, has been keeping a wary eye on Goals 2000 since its inception. In late 1993 when Congress prepared to vote to authorize Goals 2000, the National Center alerted homeschoolers around the nation asking them to oppose the measure.

In 1997 and 1998, the National Center lobbied House and Senate leadership and orchestrated nationwide alerts to urge passage of the Gorton Amendment—legislation that would defund Goals 2000 and block grant the money to the states instead. Due to the diligent efforts of homeschool moms and dads, the Gorton Amendment was passed by the Senate, but unfortunately was then removed in conference committee.

Following HSLDA's Home School Freedom Works Rally at the Capitol on September 23, 1999, the National Center organized lobbying appointments for 1,800 homeschoolers with 250 congressional offices. Later that fall, these visits paid off as congressmen and their staff demonstrated that they recognized and understood the opposition against Goals 2000.

’89 Education Summit’s Goals Still Unmet
By Kenneth J. Cooper
Washington Post
December 10, 1999

The nation has not met any of the eight educational goals for the year 2000 set a decade ago by President Bush and the governors of all 50 states, although measurable progress has been made toward the goals pertaining to preschoolers and student achievement in math and reading, a national panel announced yesterday.

The National Education Goals Panel’s final report before the 2000 deadline showed that more children were “ready to learn”—healthier and better prepared through preschool or parental reading—when they entered kindergarten. Students also demonstrated higher math proficiency, particularly in elementary and middle school, and a slight improvement in reading proficiency in middle school.

In the case of two goals, teacher quality and school safety, the panel reported the nation has actually gone backward. The percentage of teachers holding a college degree in the main subject they teach dropped from 66 percent to 63 percent, and there was a significant increase in student use of illicit drugs, from 24 percent to 37 percent in 10th grade. . . .

What Happened?

In early November 1999, the National Center received a tip that although the House had refused to fund or reauthorize it, Goals 2000 funding was being put back into the 1999 Education/Labor/HHS Appropriations bill. Other contacts on Capitol Hill confirmed this discouraging report. Several congressional offices told the National Center, "Clinton wants Goals 2000. It is his pet project. There is no way we can repeal Goals 2000."

National Center staff contacted Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's office and other Senate and House leaders. They persistently explained homeschoolers' opposition to Goals 2000, again asking for its repeal. House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Bill Goodling (formerly PA-19th) responded encouragingly, promising not to settle for anything less than repeal of Goals 2000. Meanwhile, the National Center's Congressional Action Program (CAP) orchestrated a national alert, generating hundreds of calls from homeschoolers to key leadership offices.

The citizens' message got through to negotiators. On November 17, Congressman Goodling, House and Senate leadership, and President Clinton reached an agreement on the 1999 appropriations bill. An amendment was added ending all Goals 2000 funding to the states and officially repealing key sections of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, effective September 30, 2000. President Clinton signed the bill into law on November 30, 1999. With federal "seed" money cut off, the National Center expected state-level Goals 2000 programs to wither away.

While many conservative, pro-family groups have opposed Goals 2000 over the years, a staffer of the Educational and Workforce Committee involved in the final negotiations remarked, "If HSLDA had not brought up the Goals 2000 issue, it would have never seen the light of day." The fight against Goals 2000 has been a long battle, but "the homeschoolers kept up a constant drumbeat," said another staffer.

As a result of the 1999 appropriations bill, the Titles III and IV of Goals 2000 were eliminated after September 2000. But Titles I, II, V, and VI through X still remained. Although HSLDA did not consider these titles to be as dangerous as the second and third, HSLDA still continued to push for a complete termination of the entire Goals 2000 program.

Update: Goals 2000 Finally Dead

With the final language of President George Bush's No Child Left Behind Act (H.R. 1) came the withdrawal of all authorization for Goals 2000. However, even though Congress had withdrawn its authorization for Goals 2000, if funding was not also withdrawn, the crippled, but alive Goals 2000 program would stagger on. Then, just before leaving town on December 21, 2001, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2002 Education Appropriations Conference Committee report which eliminated spending on Goals 2000. The long awaited victory came. Goals 2000 no longer authorized and now no longer funded, was dead.