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
- 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
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.