May 10, 2001

House Committee Approves Education Bill

House Committee Approves Education Bill

Late Wednesday afternoon, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved H.R. 1, President Bush's school reform bill, having stripped it last week of all private school choice provisions. The 41-7 vote cleared the way for the full House to take up the measure, which could happen next week.

Six of the seven nay votes were cast by Republicans -- DeMint (SC), Graham (SC), Hoekstra (MI), Schaffer (CO), Souder (IN), and Tancredo (CO) -- who strongly support school choice as well as increased flexibility for states and school districts in carrying out federal programs.

"We're a giant step closer to the most significant change in federal education policy since 1965," countered committee chairman John Boehner (R-OH). "The committee's vote today is a vote to empower parents and improve education quality for every child in America. It's an unmistakable signal that after three and a half decades of increasing education spending, Washington is finally beginning to demand some results for our children."

"H.R. 1 reflects President Bush's education reform agenda to leave no child behind," Boehner continued. "It gives states and local school districts unprecedented flexibility while holding them accountable for closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. It empowers parents with information about the progress their children are making, the quality of the schools they're attending, and the qualifications of the teachers who are teaching them. Most importantly, it gives parents an array of new options and provides a safety valve for disadvantaged children trapped in failing schools."

House GOP Conservatives Complain about Education Bill

Prior to the vote, conservative Republicans fired angry questions at Chairman Boehner regarding changes to the education overhaul bill (H.R. 1).

Conservatives are upset about a committee vote to strip the measure of a private school voucher provision and about the increasing cost of the bill. "It's about the size and scope of government," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Pence said Boehner made an "impassioned defense" of the bill during this morning's Republican Conference meeting, but his words did not sway many conservatives. "He said, 'This is the president's bill.' We said 'This isn't the president's bill.'"

Committee Passes Schaffer Amendment to Safeguard State Autonomy in Education

The House Education and Workforce Committee also passed an amendment to prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from dictating or controlling state education curricula. The amendment, offered by Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO), passed by voice vote with no recorded opposition during committee action.

Chairman Boehner applauded passage of the amendment.

"H.R. 1 explicitly prohibits federally sponsored national testing, federally controlled curricula, as well as any mandatory national teacher test or certification," he said. "This amendment reinforces those safeguards to further protect the autonomy of states and local school districts."

"H.R. 1 recognizes that education is fundamentally the province of states, local school districts, and parents." Bohener added. "Passage of this amendment makes the strong safeguards for states in H.R. 1 even stronger. This is another positive step toward committee passage of a bill that grants unprecedented new flexibility to local school districts, empowers parents, and provides a means of escape for children trapped in failing schools."


Protecting Home Schools
Home schools are freed from federal regulations not only in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (H.R. 1) but also ALL programs administered through the U.S. Department of Education.

All home schools and those private schools that do not take federal funds are exempted from all testing requirements referenced in H.R. 1.

Prohibiting National Testing
H.R. 1 explicitly prohibits federally sponsored national testing, federally controlled curriculum, as well as any mandatory national teacher test or certification.

Enhancing Accountability And Demanding Results
H.R. 1 includes President Bush's rigorous plan for holding state and local school districts that use federal funds accountable for improving student achievement.

The measure requires states and local schools to demonstrate results through annual reading and math assessments for students in grades three through eight. The plan authorizes $400 million to help states design the tests.

Unprecedented Local Flexibility
H.R. 1 dramatically enhances flexibility for local school districts, giving them the freedom to transfer up to 50 percent of the federal education dollars they receive among an assortment of ESEA programs as long as they demonstrate results. Local school districts do not have to receive permission from the state or the Education Secretary to transfer funds.

This unprecedented new flexibility gives local school districts the freedom to target more resources where they're needed most -- from class size reduction to higher teacher salaries to technology in the classroom -- and address needs that often change from one year to the next, since these transfers are not permanent and must be made on an annual basis.

Breakthrough Consolidation
The bill gives states and local schools additional flexibility to improve student performance by consolidating a host of duplicative programs to ensure that state and local officials can meet the unique needs of students.

H.R. 1 eliminates or consolidates 32 federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs out of a total of 66, streamlining nearly 50 percent of the federal K-12 education bureaucracy.

Empowering Parents
H.R. 1 requires states and school districts to prepare annual report cards on their schools to better inform parents about the quality of their child's school.

Moreover, it allows parents to remove their child from a low-performing school and send him to a different public school immediately after his school has been identified as failing.

President Bush's Safety Valve Initiative
Before giving parents the option of sending their children to another school, H.R. 1 gives low-performing schools the chance to improve by offering them financial and other technical assistance to improve and increase student achievement.

Immediate Public School Choice: If a school does not make adequate yearly progress after one year, the district must implement specific corrective actions to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff, as well as offer public school choice to all students in the failing school.

Supplementary Educational Services - Including Tutoring by Faith-Based Providers: The measure allows parents to use Title I funds to provide supplementary educational services -- including tutoring, after school services, and summer school programs -- for their children. Parents will choose from a list of providers, including private faith-based providers, [who] meet certain criteria.

Private School Choice: The H.R. 1 Chairman's Mark included private school choice, but a Democrat amendment (opposed by the chairman) passed to strike the provision from the president's plan. Chairman Boehner believes private school choice is an essential component of equal educational opportunity and has vowed to continue the drive for private school choice during floor action on H.R. 1.

The President's Reading First Initiative
H.R. 1 focuses on effective, proven methods of reading instruction and triples federal literacy funding from the present $300 million to $900 million in 2002.

The president would spend $5 billion over the next five years on reading programs for K-3 children.

Improving Teacher Quality
Instead of funding a separate class size reduction program, H.R. 1 will give school districts the flexibility to use funds to reduce class sizes by recruiting, hiring, and training teachers, or providing professional development for teachers.

Making Schools Safer
H.R. 1 authorizes the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Act, and the Gun Free Schools Act -- which help states and local school districts fund drug and violence prevention programs and before- and after-school activities.

As part of the broad effort to make schools safer, H.R. 1 allows teachers to remove violent and persistently disruptive students from the classroom without fear of legal repercussions.

Improving Math and Science Education
H.R. 1 establishes the Math and Science Partnership program to provide grant funds for states to work in conjunction with institutions of higher education in strengthening K-12 math and science education.

Partnerships will focus on strengthening math and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools and may include such activities as making math and science curricula more rigorous, improving professional development, and attracting math and science majors to teaching.

Promoting English Fluency
The bill holds states and school districts accountable to ensure that students are proficient in English after three years of attending school in the United States.

It requires local educational agencies to obtain parental consent before placing children in an instructional program that is not taught primarily in English.

 Other Resources

More information on H. R. 1