Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Bush's Education Reform Plan Gains Congressional Support

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Bush's Education Reform Plan Gains Congressional Support

Article excerpt

Some proposed changes to education bill from CBC members were rejected


"I'm for standards and measuring learning, but I don't think this is the right way."

--Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., the only Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to vote against H.R. 1, a bipartisan version of President Bush's education reform bill. Among other concerns, Payne objected to the plan's overreliance on testing.

Education reform bills gaining ground in Congress may affect virtually 'all areas of school policy, from K-12 through higher education.

The chief vehicle is H.R. 1, a plan from House Republicans and the Bush administration that has attracted support from many Democrats. The bill includes Bush's testing initiative, in which students in grades 3 through 8 would undergo annual 'assessments to gauge school effectiveness. Also part of the plan is a K-12/higher education partnerships initiative that could provide $500 million for innovative programming involving colleges and universities.

Senior Democrats say they don't support all aspects of the plan but found many positive aspects -- provided Congress follows up these commitments with greater investments in education. For Democrats, perhaps the most significant victory so far involves vouchers. Facing strong Democratic opposition, GOP leaders have dropped plans to allow federal funds to go toward private school education in areas with failing public schools. Most public school advocates and Black lawmakers opposed Bush's voucher provision.

The committee voted 41 to 7 in favor of the bill. Six of the seven dissenters were Republicans unhappy with the decision to drop vouchers from the plan. Among Congressional Black Caucus members on the committee, most voted for the bill, including Reps. Major Owens, D-N.Y. and Harold Ford, D-Tenn.

For higher education, the bill authorizes math/science partnerships in which colleges and universities would work with at-risk schools on curriculum and teaching improvements.

Projects could support summer professional workshops for teachers, curriculum improvements and follow-up training for teachers to apply in the classroom what they have learned at training sessions.

Money would come from Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is reserved for educators' professional development. Overall, the bill authorizes $2.6 billion for Title II next year. Under the new bill, up to 20 percent could go toward these K- 12/college partnerships. …

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