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Back to June Ed Reporter

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1996 Goals 2000 Amendment Adds Words, Confusion
But Maintains Strict Control by Federal Government

On April 25, 1996, President Clinton signed into law H.R. 3019 to provide funding for the remainder of FY 1996. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK) worked together to include revisions of the Goals 2000 program in this law. Several changes to Goals 2000 affect states' participation in the program.

While some of the changes are positive, such as the elimination of Opportunity-to-Learn standards, the amendment does not cure the fundamental problem, namely, federalizing education by mandating the "goals" on each participating state.
The amendment:

Enables Local Education Agencies
(LEAS) to Apply for Direct Grants

The amendment permits school districts, in states that elected not to participate in the Goals 2000 program prior to October 1995 (VA, NH, AL, MT), to apply directly to the Secretary of Education for Goals 2000 funding, if the State Education Agency (SEA) approves. This process is commonly called a "local by-pass." This means that a local school can by-pass the state authority and contract directly with the federal government!

The effect of this amendment is that local schools (LEAS) in the four states that did not participate in Goals 2000 prior to October 1995, can now receive grants directly from the Secretary of Education if the State Education Agency or Authority approves of the direct grant, and the LEA has submitted an application to the Secretary of Education that is "consistent with the provisions of the Act," (i.e., details how the LEA will reach the 8 National Education Goals.)

Eliminates the Requirement that States Submit State Improvement
Plans to the Secretary of Education

The Goals 2000 law has different application procedures for the first year and for subsequent years of participation in the program. Therefore, it is important to analyze the impact of this change on both first and subsequent year applications.

For the first year of Goals 2000 funding, a state must send to the Secretary of Education an application that includes a description of how the state will develop a State Improvement Plan that meets the requirements of the Goals 2000 program, and how the SEA will use the funds for that year, including grants to LEAs and professional development. The amendment does not change the first year participation/application process in any way.

Prior to the passage of the amendment, a state that wanted second (subsequent) year's funding had to send an application to the Secretary that included a copy of the State's Improvement Plan, along with a description of how the state would use the federal funding. If the state had not completed its Improvement Plan, it would have to inform the Secretary of how and when its plan would be complete.

The amendment eliminated the mandate that states send an actual copy of the Improvement Plan to the Secretary. Instead, the state must submit to the Secretary "assurances" by the Governor and the State Education Agency that the state does in fact have a State Improvement Plan, and any changes to the plan that the state makes will meet the requirements of the Goals program. A state must also submit its "benchmarks of improved student performance and of progress in implementing the plan, and the timelines against which the state's progress in carrying out the plan can be measured."

A state must still develop a plan that meets all the requirements of the program and must also send its "benchmarks" and "progress indicators" to the Secretary for approval. There is no indication of whether the Secretary will have any power to investigate the existence or validity of state plans or punish states that do not develop plans that meet the Secretary's requirements. In no case is a state exempt from preparing a State Improvement Plan that meets all the requirements of the law, including requirements for:

  • "developing or adopting State content standards, and State student performance standards for all students,"

  • "aligning State or local curricula, instructional material, and State assessments with the State content standards and State student performance standard,"

  • "a process for developing, selecting, or recommending instructional materials, including gender equitable and multicultural materials," and

  • "increasing the access of all students to social services, health care, nutrition, related services, and child care services. and locating such services in schools ... or other convenient sites designed to provide 'one-stop shopping' for parents and students."

Allows Schools to use Goals 2000 funds on Technology

The sponsors of the amendment claim that their change in the Goals 2000 program provides schools with a "new opportunity" to use "100% of the Goals funds to purchase technology." They are encouraging all Congressmen to write their Governors to tell them of this great new feature. However, on close examination, it is not clear what the impact of this "change" actually is.

First, a school may only use its Goals 2000 funds to purchase technology, such as computers, "when the purchase promotes the school's education improvement goals." According to House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee Chairman Bill Goodling (R-PA), this means that schools can only use their money on computers if "the technology is related to carrying out the local improvement plan and the State Education Agency approves it." Obviously, the local schools, as well as the State Agency, must have School Improvement Plans that meet the National Education Goals in place before they can receive any federal funds under the program. The plans must include specific provisions on how technology will be used to further the Goals program in order for a school to be able to use the money to purchase computers.

Even before Goals 2000 was amended last month, the law allowed LEAs to use grants "for any activities approved by the State educational agency which are reasonably related to" the state or local improvement plans. All the amendment does is make clear that "any activity" can include the purchase of computer technology. The proponents of this change say that a local school can spend 100% of its Goals funding on computers, but it is highly unlikely that any school will be able to spend all the Goals funding on computers because of the other mandates of the law.

The text of Goals 2000 says that LEAs can make sub-grants to local schools for any activities that help the school reach the goals of the improvement plan, "except that at least 85% of such funds shall be made available to individual schools to develop and implement comprehensive school improvement plans [that] help all students meet State content standards . . ."

According to a letter from Chairman Goodling to Secretary of Education Riley, this means that a school can use 15% of its funds on computers, "if technology is related to ... the local improvement plan. In order to use the balance of its funds (the other 85%), the school improvement plan must include the need for computers."

If a school is using 100% of its Goals money on computers, how is it paying for the development of the comprehensive school improvement plan? Also, how will the local school pay for all the other elements of the comprehensive school improvement plan? Each school must show progress toward reaching all 8 National Education Goals in order to receive funding under Goals 2000.

It may be true, in theory, that a local school can spend 100% of its sub-grant on computers, but it is highly unlikely that any school will be able to do this. It is also important to remember that the law does not allow a state to spend 100% of its federal funds on computer technology. It merely says that a local school may spend all its sub-grant on technology, if the school improvement plan includes it. The state has many administrative and other expenses that take up a portion of the federal money.

Conclusion

The amendment to Goals 2000 contains several other provisions that slightly reduce the federal mandates on states. For example, the law no longer dictates who must sit on the state and local panels that develop the improvement plans, even though the panels and plans are still mandated. Also, the National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC) has been formally eliminated. It had never been set up because of the fierce opposition to this "national school board" by so many concerned citizens.

There is nothing "lifesaving" about the Goals 2000 amendment that suddenly makes the program acceptable. Secretary of Education Richard Riley's spokesman, Michael Cohen, confirmed this by saying, "We're comfortable with it, and we signed on to it. There isn't anything . . . that undermines or in any way alters the fundamental goals of the program."

Goals 2000, as amended, is still a federal intrusion on the rights of local parents, schools, and communities to control their own schools, and should be rejected by all states and local school systems.

by Kris Ardizzone


 
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