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Through leadership, funding Bush addresses education.

"There will be no renaissance without revolution ... we must transform America's schools," according to President Bush in presenting the budget for the Education Department.

The President is taking two main avenues toward achieving this transformation: the federal education budget and his visible leadership on education issues.

Under the proposed fiscal 1993 budget, Education Department outlays would grow by $3.9 billion or 15 percent over 1992, to a total of $30.4 billion. Included in this is the largest increase for any domestic discretionary program of any federal department, $1.6 billion to a total of $24.3 billion. The fiscal 1993 increase means that the Education budget could increase by 41 percent over 1989.

Municipal officials, under the President's proposed plans, would see:

[section] a greater emphasis on promoting "choice" (where funds follow the child whether the setting is public or private) for middle- and lower-income families by using state and local dollars to match those from the federal government,

[section] one "break the mold" school per Congressional district with an infusion of cash for major reform,

[section] significant attention to assessment and "world class standards," and

[section] greater spending on selected programs for young, disadvantaged children.

Overall, the federal government provides only 8 percent of all education spending, which the Department of Education describes as appropriate, because the prime responsibility is left to state and local institutions.

Although all levels of government have increased spending on education, increased funding is not the crux of President Bush's plan. According to the Administration, past education spending increases have not translated to improvements in student achievement.

Therefore, the President is not trying to enhance education as a federal program, but is trying to create a national education strategy. The mission of his strategy, dubbed America 2000, is to "seek fundamental change in all 110,000 public and private elementary and secondary schools and in every community."

Lamar Alexander, Secretary of Education, describes America 2000 as "a bold, comprehensive, and long range plan to move every community in America toward the National Education Goals adopted by the President and the Governors."

The four tracks of America 2000 are today's students, tomorrow's students, today's workforce, and communities where learning can happen. To support this plan, the President has proposed the America 2000 Excellence in Education Act.

According to the proposed budget, more than a half billion dollars would be spent over three years for grants of up to $1 million to help 535 communities create "break the mold" schools for the 21st century, as well as for Merit Schools, Governors' Academies for Teachers, and Alternative Certification of Teachers and Principals.

While such schools are being supported by some authorities, others, such as National School Boards Association President Arlene Penfield, are cautious. Says Penfield, "Funding for these demonstration projects must not come at the expense of increases in existing programs, such as Chapter 1 and education for the handicapped, that benefit our neediest students."

Half a billion dollars in federal grants is also included to help a state or community create its own "GI Bill for Children." Federal dollars would match state dollars to create scholarships of up to $1,000, a kind of state or local "Pell Grant" that a middle- or low-income family might spend for a child at any lawfully operating elementary or secondary school, public or private.

Choice is under fire from many quarters, including the National School Boards Association which refers to it as a "gimmick" which detracts from meeting the "real needs of education and our students." The National Education Association reports that a $30 million voucher plan has just been defeated by the U.S. Senate.

A third major component in the budget is the $243 million (a $95 million increase) for research, statistics, and assessment funding to help the Nation develop national education standards and a voluntary national examination system.

A $100 million increase (to a total of $710 million -- a 16 percent increase) in Chapter 1 Concentration Grants will target funds to areas in greatest need of remedial education services for disadvantaged children. The National Education Association argues, however, that "Basic grants for Chapter 1 ... would be frozen, resulting in a net loss, after accounting for inflation."

Richard Miller, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators, expressed his hope that the President would not forget Chapter 1 programs when he fully funds mandated programs, as was promised in the State of the Union speech. These programs "have been historically underfunded." Also in the budget is $90 million for Even Start. Even Start improves educational skills of at-risk preschool children and their parents.

The President's goal is "to help states go farther and faster on education reform, help states extend educational choice to low- and middle-income families, broaden access to higher education, and continue progress on restoring integrity to student aid programs."
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Author:Kyle, John E.; Turner, Todd
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 3, 1992
Previous Article:Bush highlights family issues in address.
Next Article:Bush proposes big changes in State of Union.

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