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Government Affairs Program ACTION ALERT


Congress Moves Ahead with Education Reform

(Posted 12-10-01; Revised 12-14-01)



This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL:  After months of meetings, House and Senate negotiators have hammered out a compromise on nearly all aspects of H.R.1, a comprehensive reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) -- the principal authorizing legislation for K-12 programs at the Department of Education (DoEd).  The $485 million Eisenhower program, which for years has provided professional development funds for math and science teachers, is being eliminated and replaced by a math and science partnership initiative between state and local education agencies and universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to enhance professional development for science educators and to develop curricula. Although the ESEA bill authorizes $450 million for the partnerships, that funding is far from certain -- a House-Senate conference committee is working right now on the fiscal year (FY) 2002 appropriations bill that provides the actual dollars for DoEd. The appropriators need to hear from their constituents about the importance of science education. AGI encourages geoscientists to communicate their support for the full $450 million authorized by the ESEA compromise.

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The last Congress tried but failed to pass a comprehensive education bill. But this year, pressured by a new administration that listed education as a top priority, Congress is poised to redefine the federal government's role in primary and secondary education.

One of the first proposals out of the new administration was President Bush's "No Child Left Behind," which not only outlined the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization but also the general structure of federal education reform.  The first bills introduced in both the House (H.R.1) and the Senate (S.1) were reserved for ESEA reauthorization bills. These bills combined many of the ideas in the President's proposal with previous reform bills to form a complex piece of legislation that  reduces the number of specific K-12 programs at the Department of Education (DoEd) -- including professional development and curriculum development programs -- and combines them into block grants to state and local education agencies.

At the end of June 2001, both the House and Senate completed action on H.R.1 and S.1 and named members to a House-Senate Conference Committee charged with resolving the many differences between the bills.  The original plan was for the conference committee to meet during July and at the staff level in August so that the compromised bill could be brought up for floor debate first thing after the August recess.  Conferees, however, underestimated the size of the gap between the two versions.  They should reach a final agreement within the next few days, but compromises have been reached on the major provisions affecting math and science education. (The fate of the highly controversial Santorum resolution, which singled out biological evolution, has not been confirmed, but it appears likely that portions of the resolution will be included in an explanatory report but not the actual bill. For more, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.)

Of key interest to the geoscience community is language regarding professional development and curricula for math and science.  In the past the DoEd's Eisenhower programs have been the vehicle for science education, but the revised ESEA would terminate Eisenhower in favor of new math and science partnerships. Established in 1985 to provide funding for professional development opportunities for math and science educators, the Eisenhower programs were designed to distribute funds to states and school districts solely for the purpose of teacher enhancement in math and science -- Eisenhower was funded at $485 million in the fiscal year 2001 budget. One part was the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education, a permanent repository of instructional materials and programs to be used in elementary and secondary schools; another was the Eisenhower Regional Mathematics and Science Education Consortia.  Under the revised ESEA legislation, these programs would be terminated.  In there stead will be math and science partnerships that will be administered through the DoEd, allowing state/local education agencies to work with institutions of higher education as well as corporations and nonprofit organizations to raise math and science standards for both students and teachers.  The program would provide funding for all states to award grants on a competitive basis to eligible partnerships. As described by DoEd: "Partnerships would focus on strengthening the quality of math and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools and could include such activities as making math and science curricula more rigorous, improving math and science professional development, attracting math and science majors to teaching, and aligning high school math and science standards to foster college placement."

The ESEA compromise authorizes up to $450 million per fiscal year for these partnerships. But the actual funding must come from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as part of the FY 2002 Labor/HHS appropriations bill. Work on that bill, H.R. 3061, has been held up pending the outcome of the ESEA negotiations. Now that the ESEA compromises have been reached, it falls to a House-Senate Conference Committee on H.R. 3061 to allocate the funds. With the Eisenhower programs gone, the partnerships initiative is the only federal program targeted to science education and professional development. Although the House version of H.R. 3061 set aside the full $450 million, the Senate allocated only $25 million -- the conferees need to hear from their constituents in support of full funding of these partnerships. The appropriators will be making the final decision on education funding this week before heading home for the holidays.

[Due to a technicality, the appropriators have interpreted the House version of H.R. 3061 as providing no funding for the math and science partnerships at the Department of Education -- unlike the Senate version, the House version did not place the partnerships under a separate heading.  This decision could greatly limit the funding options available for these programs.  The current outlook is for a funding level of closer to $12.5 million.]

AGI has signed on to a letter with other science, engineering, and education societies urging the H.R. 3061 Conference Committee to fully fund the Department of Education's math and science partnership program.  AGI encourages you to contact your congressional delegation to support the $450 million level agreed upon by the ESEA negotiators.  The best way to contact Congress is via phone, fax, or e-mail -- snail mail is still being quarantined in the wake of the anthrax attack.  Below are phone and fax numbers for members of the H.R. 3061 Conference Committee. For those Members not on the conference committee, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask to be connected with your Representative or Senators.

On a related note, the FY 2002 VA/HUD/Independent Agencies appropriations bill, which was signed into law last month, provides $160 million for a similar but totally separate program administered through the National Science Foundation (NSF) for longer-term math and science partnerships between state/local education agencies and institutions of higher education.  These grants would be awarded through competitive, merit-reviewed process, and would fall under two broad categories: infrastructure partnerships and action partnerships.  Infrastructure partnerships would work to develop and implement plans to raise math and science standards statewide, and action partnerships would work to develop and implement plans on a more local basis.  The $160 million allocated to the NSF partnerships is completely separate from the Department of Education partnerships, which are guaranteed for every state -- unlike the NSF grants that are national competitions instead of state competition.

Conference Committee on H.R. 3061, Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill
 
House Conferees direct phone  fax
Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA/51st)  (202) 225-5452  (202) 225-2558
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT/3rd)  (202) 225-3661  (202) 225-4890
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX/12th)  (202) 225-5071  (202) 225-5683
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD/5th)  (202) 225-4131  (202) 225-4300
Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK/5th)  (202) 225-2132  (202) 226-1463
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (R-RI/1st)  (202) 225-4911 (202) 225-3290
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL/2nd)  (202) 225-0773  (202) 225-0899
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY/18th)  (202) 225-6506  (202) 225-0546
Rep. Dan Miller (R-FL/13th)  (202) 225-5015 (202) 226-0828
Rep. Anne Northup (R-KY/3rd)  (202) 225-5401  (202) 225-5776
Rep. David Obey (D-WI/7th)  (202) 225-3365
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA/8th)  (202) 225-4965  (202) 225-8259
Rep. John Peterson (R-PA/5th)  (202) 225-5121  (202) 225-5796
Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH/16th)  (202) 225-3876  (202) 225-3059
Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA/10th)  (202) 225-3731  (202) 225-9594
Rep. Roger Wicker (R-MS/1st)  (202) 225-4306  (202) 225-3549
Rep. C.W. Young (R-FL/10th)  (202) 225-5961  (202) 225-9764
Senate Conferees  direct phone fax
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)  (202) 224-3471 
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)  (202) 224-5054 (202) 224-9450
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)  (202) 224-2752  (202) 228-1067
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH)  (202) 224-2315  (202) 224-6519
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)  (202) 224-3324  (202) 224-4952
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)  (202) 224-3254 (202) 224-9369
Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC)  (202) 224-6121  (202) 224-4293
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)  (202) 224-5922 (202) 224-0776
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)  (202) 224-3934  (202) 224-6747
Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-WI)  (202) 224-5653 (202) 224-9787
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)  (202) 224-5824  (202) 224-9735
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)  (202) 224-2621  (202) 224-0238
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)  (202) 224-3542  (202) 224-7327
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)  (202) 224-4254  (202) 228-1229
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)  (202) 224-3004  (202) 224-2354

For more on how to contact Congress, see http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov or visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/howto.html.


Alert prepared by Margaret A. Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: CNN.com, National Science Teacher Association website, House Education and the Workforce website, Library of Congress, National Science Foundation, and Washington Post.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted December 10, 200; Revised December 14, 2001


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