Summit Policy Position Altered: Conservatives Tilt Education Goals

Article excerpt

PALISADES, N.Y. - Philosophical and partisan differences over education erupted yesterday at the Education Summit, where the nation's governors had been handed a script and asked to agree to establish high standards and rigorous tests in their states in the next two years.

"There were a few raised voices," said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors' Association (NGA) and co-host of the summit with Louis Gerstner, chairman of IBM.

Led by Virginia Gov. George Allen, a group of participants rewrote the policy statement to better reflect conservative views and reaffirm that the states and not the federal government play the major role in education.

Mr. Thompson approved the changes at a meeting that lasted until 1:30 a.m., said Mr. Allen, a Republican. The changes were palatable enough to garner the ayes of the rest of the governors, though the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana and Minnesota did not attend the summit.

One of the major changes in the agreement removes a reference to the governors supporting the National Education Goals.

"I'm not for national education goals," Mr. Allen said.

The revised statement says the governors will "implement at the state and local levels the education goals adopted by governors following the Charlottesville Summit in 1989."

At their first summit, in Charlottesville in 1989, the governors agreed on six national education-improvement goals. Yesterday's rephrasing distinguishes the governors' policy statement from President Clinton's federal Goals 2000 program, Mr. Allen said.

The policy statement adopted yesterday says, "Parents have the primary responsibility to make decisions about their children's education. …