Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Houses Passes Flexible Measure to Strengthen Local Education

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Houses Passes Flexible Measure to Strengthen Local Education

Article excerpt

Legislation passed by the House last could give cities and towns greater flexibility and more opportunities in training and hiring teachers.

The House moved a step closer to the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESA) by passing H.R. 1995, the "Teacher Empowerment Act" (TEA).

Introduced by Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), the legislation amends Title II of ESA by combining the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, Goals 2000 and President Clinton's class size reduction program into block grants for state and local governments to use for improving teacher quality and reducing class size. The bill would authorize over $2 billion a year, about $11 billion over the next five years, for such programs.

Republicans contend that the measure would grant greater flexibility to local school districts in balancing teacher hiring and teacher training. "Reducing class size won't help one bit if you don't have a quality teacher," said Rep. Bill Goodling (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The bill would require educational agencies to allocate their block grant funding among mathematics and science activities, professional development activities, and hiring teachers to reduce class size. Local authorities may, however, apply for a waiver from teacher hiring if they can show that those funds would be better used toward enhancing teacher skills or if class size reduction would produce such problems as the employment of underqualified teachers or a lack of classroom space.

Stated McKeon, "Efforts to reduce class size often drive quantity over quality, pushing schools to hire less qualified teachers at the expense of students."

Twenty-four Democrats joined all but four Republicans in the 239-185 passage of H.R. 1995. This roll call falls well short of the majority needed to sustain a promised veto by President Clinton

Under TEA, schools could initiate their own teacher training efforts, with state approval, and could directly furnish teachers with stipends to select their own state-approved training. …

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