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Topic: NSTA Legislative Update
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
NSTA Legislative Update
Posted: Aug 12, 1998 5:36 PM
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August 12, 1998

Congress Adjourns for August Recess
Future of Eisenhower Still Uncertain

Both the Senate and the House have adjourned for the
August break. The House plans to return on September 9,
and the Senate is scheduled to return on August 31.
Both chambers hope to conclude their work by October 9.

Here is a brief update on the status of major
education-related legislation. As it stands now, the
future of the Eisenhower Professional Development
Program is still very much in jeopardy.

The House passed 11 of its 13 appropriations bills
before members left town, but work was not completed on
the appropriations bill for Labor, HHS, and Education
(HR 4274). As you know, a rider in this bill would
allow the combining of funds from the Eisenhower
Professional Development Program and Goals 2000 with
those of Title VI, in effect creating a block grant. If
this happens, Eisenhower funds would not be targeted
solely for professional development. In addition, the
House proposes to fund the Eisenhower program at $50
million less than in FY 1998.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Although we have said this before, we
cannot stress how important it is for you to call or
visit your Congressional representatives. (This
includes your Senators, because although the Senate
will not take up its appropriations bill until
September, it is important that your opinion is
expressed to Senators before they begin their work).
Since members of Congress are now back in their
districts, you can call directory assistance for the
location and number of your representative's district
office(s) and leave messages for them. Or, if you
prefer, make an appointment to visit the district
office and speak with your representative or a
legislative aide.

THE MESSAGE: Ask your representative and senators to
vote AGAINST any appropriations bill that would block
grant the Eisenhower Professional Development Program.
In addition, ask that the Eisenhower program be funded
at a minimum of $335 million (the current FY 1998
amount) or more.

For more talking points you can use, please see the
July 27 legislative update on the NSTA website at

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee voted,
by 17 to 1, to expand the Education Flexibility
Demonstration Program (S 2213) from 12 to all 50
states. This legislation was sponsored by Senator Bill
Frist (R-TN).

Ed-Flex allows states to waive many requirements of
federal education programs if these requirements
interfere with state and local efforts to improve
education. In exchange, participating states must prove
they have solid education reform plans, and they must
be willing to waive their own regulations for schools
if those rules interfere with individual school reform
plans. IDEA and civil rights requirements cannot be

Although many amendments to this bill were offered,
only one was accepted: an amendment that would
authorize $40 million for inservice teacher training in
school technology for FY 1998.

NSTA objected to the expansion of the Ed-Flex program,
noting that it could threaten the availability of
professional development funds to science and math

Dollars to the Classroom Act (HR 3248)
No new action has occurred with this legislation since
the last update. Introduced by Representative Joe Pitts
(R-PA) and approved by the House Committee on Education
and the Workforce, the bill seeks to combine $2.74
billion for 31 Department of Education programs into a
single block grant. Similar legislation in the Senate
(S. 1589), introduced by Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR),
has not yet been taken up by the Senate Committee on
Labor and Human Resources. Both the Council of Chief
State School Officers and the American Association of
School Administrators have opposed this bill, and the
President has vowed to veto it. In your
letters/calls/visits to your elected representatives,
feel free to also express your displeasure with this

The E-Rate
The battle continues over the fate of this program. In
early August, the Oversight Subcommittee of the House
Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing to examine
whether the funding mechanism the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) established for the
E-Rate program qualifies as an administrative fee or as
a tax. To fund this program, which would provide
schools and libraries with discounted Internet access,
the FCC has imposed mandatory charges on all
telecommunications service providers. The House panel
is looking into whether the FCC went beyond its scope
and instituted a tax, which only Congress is permitted
to do. The issue is also before the U.S. Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals, and a ruling is expected shortly.

For the most part, panel members were clearly divided
on whether the funding mechanism was a tax or a fee:
Republicans asserted it was a tax, and Democrats called
for their colleagues to wait until the court issues its

Teacher Tests and Merit Pay
Before adjourning, Senator Connie Mack (R-FL)
introduced S 2421, a measure that would set aside half
of any increase in Eisenhower professional development
funds after FY 1999 and instead give these funds to
states that allow merit pay and teacher testing. (This
provision was also part of the Coverdell education
savings bill that President Clinton vetoed earlier this
year). Watch this legislative update for future
developments on this bill.

Vouchers and Charter Schools
Before adjourning, the House passed HR 4380, the
appropriations bill for Washington, DC, which included
an amendment introduced by Majority Leader Richard
Armey (R-TX) to fund a $45 million, five-year school
choice plan in the District of Columbia. This amendment
would let 2,000 families with incomes below the poverty
level to apply for up to $3,200 to use in schools in
the metropolitan DC area, including Virginia and

The Senate Labor and Human Resource Committee approved
a bill that would require charter schools to include
their students in state and district assessments and to
report the performance of their students on these
tests. The bill would also allow state education
agencies to distribute Title VI block grant funds to
charter schools and award federal charter funding to
states with the most charter schools.

There will be a great deal of activity beginning when
Congress returns from its August recess and continuing
until it adjourns again in October for the elections.
Education will likely be a big issue this election
year, so watch for all the developments in future
legislative updates. As always, please contact your
representatives to let your opinions be heard, and
remember to forward any feedback you receive to Ann
Wild at NSTA Headquarters. Thanks.

Jodi Peterson
Co-director, Legislative Affairs
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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