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Senate education bill hung up over vouchers.

The Senate opened the 1992 session by taking up a controversial $850 million comprehensive education reform package last week. Much of the debate has focused on the most contentious issue--the use of federal funds to help parents who want to send their children to private school.

Beyond the public versus private school funding issues, the bill is designed to implement the national education goals announced last year by the President and the nation's Governors. Following the Education 2000 plan, a National Council on Education Goals would be established to track the progress in attaining the goals and make appropriate recommendations. At the end of two years, the Council would issue a "National Report Card."

A successful amendment passed 96-0, was offered by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), to establish a $100 million block grant demonstration program to fund new schools, new techniques for teaching in communities, and employ innovative technologies to meet the needs of local communities. Communities with high concentrations of educationally disadvantaged children and children from low-income families would be given special consideration in the selection process.

In his remarks during debate over the Cochran amendment, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking Republican on the Labor and Human Resources Committee called the New American Schools proposal "a demonstration program would allow us to look for the pitfalls in the program, to look for the good things in the program, and to see if this idea really does work."

Additional issues addressed in S. 2 of importance to municipal officials include:

[section] establishment of a grants program for local public housing authorities for literacy programs and related activities;

[section] expansion of Federal assistance to local governments for literacy programs;

[section] expanded funding for the Even Start program, the child of Head Start that provides parents of Head Start children literacy opportunities;

[section] increased funding for Head Start;

[section] a mandatory functional illiteracy program for all adults incarcerated in certain State corrections system or local jail or detention center;

[section] establishment of an Interagency Task Force on Literacy to coordinate the literacy efforts of appropriate federal agencies.

The House companion bill, HR 3320, is sponsored by Reps. William Ford (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, William Goodling (R-Pa.), ranking Republican on the Committee, and Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), Chairman of the subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary and Vocational Education. The House measure contains many of the same provisions as S. 2 with one major difference--HR 3320 would permit the use of public monies to help parents pay for private school education.

The administration opposes S. 2 because the bill lacks several key elements contained in the Education 2000 initiative especially those dealing with school choice.
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Title Annotation:debate over whether federal funds should be used to help parents who send their children to private schools
Author:Quist, Janet
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 27, 1992
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