EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
(THIS STATEMENT HAS BEEN COORDINATED BY OMB WITH THE CONCERNED AGENCIES.)
October 20, 1999
H.R. 2 - The Students Results Act of 1999
(Rep. Goodling (R) PA and 18 others)
The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 2, as reported by the Committee on Education and the Workforce, but strongly urges that the bill be improved as outlined below.
The Administration is pleased that the Committee worked in a bipartisan manner and that H.R. 2 reflects some of the themes that shaped the President's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Educational Excellence for All Children Act of 1999. The Administration is encouraged that the Committee-reported version of H.R. 2 continues the work of standards-based reform, emphasizes public school choice, recognizes the importance of accountability, and rejects the false promise of vouchers. The Administration strongly opposes pending amendments to permit Title I funds to be used for private school vouchers, as well as amendments that would curtail necessary efforts by the Department of Education to protect the civil rights of children with limited English proficiency.
The Administration encourages the Congress to improve specific aspects of the legislation as the reauthorization process moves forward. Specifically, the Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to amend the bill to:
- Target funds to areas of greatest need by concentrating Title I funds on high-poverty districts and schools that have the greatest need for funds and the farthest to go to raise student achievement. The bill should thus be amended to devote substantially more funds to Targeted Grants and less funds to Basic Grants. In addition, the House should delete language that would guarantee the award of Concentration Grants to districts for four years after they lose their eligibility. Finally, the bill should be amended to adopt the President's proposal to determine the Basic Grant allocation for Puerto Rico on the same basis as is used for the rest of the country.
- Ensure that children with limited English proficiency (LEP) are able to meet State standards for all children. To support our continued commitment to improving parental involvement in the education of students with limited English proficiency, the bill should require that schools annually assess the English proficiency of LEP children in their Title I programs. Results would be used both to improve instruction and inform parents of student progress. In addition, the House should delete any provisions of the bill that would require parental consent for certain Title I services and jeopardize student access to the full benefit of Title I and opportunities to achieve to high standards.
The House should also include provisions from the President's proposal that would require States to use tests written in Spanish when testing Spanish-speaking students in subjects other than English, if Spanish-language tests are more likely to yield accurate and reliable information on what these students know in those subjects. This will help ensure that States, school districts, and schools are accountable for the academic performance of children with limited English proficiency. Similarly, to ensure accountability for helping students learn English, States should be required to include LEP students in State assessments of reading/language arts in English, when students have been in U.S. public schools for three or more consecutive years. Finally, the bill should require that tests used to assess the literacy level of first graders be in the language most likely to yield valid results.
- Retain the current eligibility requirements for school-wide programs. Currently, schools with 50 percent of their students from low-income families can use their Title I funds for school-wide programs. H.R. 2 would lower the threshold to 40 percent. A threshold lower than 50 percent is likely to dilute the effect of Title I services for disadvantaged students in the school.
- Strengthen accountability by including the President's proposal that each State set aside 2.5 percent of its annual Title I allocation to help turn around the lowest-performing schools. The bill should also be amended to promote single Statewide accountability systems, that would be effective immediately, to help ensure that all schools, including Title I schools, help students learn to the same high standards. By establishing potentially unworkable performance requirements solely for Title I schools, H.R. 2 would lead States to develop dual accountability systems -- one for Title I schools and another for all other schools. Moreover, because even the best State accountability systems today do not meet the requirements the bill would impose on Title I schools, the procedures required by the bill would cause significant delays in implementing effective district and school accountability. The States have already been given several years to implement accountability systems, and students in low-performing schools should not have to wait for further improvements.
- Improve the quality of Title I instruction by incorporating the President's proposals to ensure that Title I teachers and paraprofessionals are fully trained and qualified, and substantially curtail the use of paraprofessionals to provide instructional services. The bill should also require school districts to devote at least five percent of their annual Title I allocations to provide high-quality professional development for teachers, principals, and other school staff.
- Strengthen provisions on "comparability". The bill should include the President's proposal to strengthen current "comparability" provisions to ensure that disadvantaged children in Title I schools have access to the same quality of instruction and other resources as do children in other schools.
- Reauthorize the Women's Educational Equity Act, as proposed by the President, in order to continue the national commitment to promote gender equity in education. This reauthorization is important to ensure that all women and girls have full and equal access to all educational and career opportunities. Increasing numbers of school districts are seeking materials and technical assistance related to gender equity, and the President's proposal would help meet those growing demands.
The Administration is pleased that the Committee included the President's proposed demonstration program that would provide support for high-quality public school choice initiatives. The bill should also reauthorize education programs for Native Hawaiians and adopt amendments to provide the additional flexibility proposed by the President to simplify and streamline these programs, which address the special educational obstacles that Native Hawaiians face. H.R. 2 should not include the new (and unworkable) program focused on rural areas. It is unlikely that the proposal would achieve its apparent objective of reducing administrative burdens or increasing flexibility for rural districts. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address the education needs of rural areas.