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EDUCATION REPORTER
Number 133 February 1997

February Education Reporter inside this issue . . .

E.D. Gleeful Over Big Budget
Secretary Riley and Deputy Secretary Smith Boast of Increased E.D. Spending for 1997

WASHINGTON, DC - Despite Republican promises to abolish the Department of Education (ED) during the 104th Congress, fiscal year 1997 promises to be a year of plenty for this federal department. On Sept. 30, 1996, the eve of the new fiscal year, President Clinton signed into law a spending bill in which the Republican-led Congress appropriated $743 million more than the President's original $25.6 billion request.

In a message to ED employees, Secretary Richard Riley and Acting Deputy Secretary Marshall Smith credit two phenomena that led to the turnaround. First, Clinton stood firmly behind the ED's original budget request. Second, "the American people rallied behind education and the importance of the federal role in our system as never before."

All 25 items on the Department's budget received sizable increases. The spending bill includes $491 million for Goals 2000, a 40% increase over last year's spending allowance. Funding for School-to-Work increased 11% to $200 million which "will enable virtually all States to put in place comprehensive systems to help the Nation's youth . . . make a smoother transition from school to career-oriented work and further education," reported Riley and Marshall.

Safe and Drug-Free Schools state grants increased 26% over 1996 levels to $556 million. Bilingual and Immigrant Education funds increased 40%, up $74 million to $262 million.

The bill includes $200 million for Clinton's new Technology Literacy Challenge Fund initiative for grants to state, local, and private-sector partnerships. The purpose of the fund is to "fully integrate technology into teaching and learning."

"We believe," wrote Riley and Marshall, "that this substantial new investment in federal education programs represents a profound affirmation of the important work in which the Department and its employees are engaged in behalf of millions of American students of all ages . . . Through your hard work and dedication we have now succeeded . . . in securing the resources needed to implement that framework in all 50 states and 15,000 school districts."

Over $175 billion have been spent during the past 16 years on elementary and secondary education, while achievement scores have steadily declined and drop out rates have climbed. In a Heritage Foundation study, policy analyst Christine Olson shows that "ED spending amounts to only 4.5% of all the money, including state and local revenues, spent on elementary and secondary education." Proportionally, however, its influence is much greater than its actual monetary contribution in that it often dictates not only how federal funds should be spent, but how state and local funds are spent as well.

The majority of ED funds are committed to programs for disadvantaged and disabled students through Chapter 1/Title I and the Education for Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). In 1993, 70% of the ED's $14 billion budget funded such programs. The ED is also active in funding specific programs, such as Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Bilingual Education.

Of the 4.5% of federal funds going to local school districts, schools receive 85% of this amount. The remaining 15% is spent on state and national programs and administration. In a 1994 study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), state officials reported that federal education programs required significantly more administrative and regulatory attention than state programs and therefore resulted in higher administrative costs. This explains why states keep more than four times the percentage of federal funds than state funds on hand in order to operate federal programs.

Currently, school districts are not required to track the portion of their federal dollars actually used for classrooms. "Few districts-and virtually no parents and taxpayers-have any accurate data with which to figure out how many cents on the dollar reach the classroom," says Olson. Audits across the country have shown that as little as 26% of school district funds are spent on classroom expenditures.

Searching for
'Abstinence-only' Programs

WASHINGTON, DC - Abstinence-only programs will receive $50 million each year under the new welfare law passed by the 104th Congress.

Only those programs that meet eight criteria will qualify for funding under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. These criteria are meant to prevent programs that mix abstinence and "safe sex" messages from receiving funding.

Abstinence-only programs have always been underfunded and so their potential is unrealized. Most sex-education programs provide abundant information on contraception and "safe sex" methods. Studies show that sex education and condom distribution programs fail to reduce pregnancy or sexual activity.

State, local, and private sources must supplement the $50 million from the federal government, bringing total funds to $87.5 million a year.

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will oversee the abstinence-education funds. Peter C. van Dyck, a senior official with the bureau, expects states to receive the application guidelines by February. The application deadline is July 15, and funds will be disbursed Oct. 1.

The sex-education network is raising questions about the meaning of "abstinence only" and the availability of such programs. At an HHS meeting, one Massachusetts official told Dr. van Dyck that states "don't have that many programs" which meet the criteria. "The programs don't exist," he said. Other officials have inquired into what "abstinence from sexual activity" means. One health professional asked if it precluded kissing.

"There's a lot of room to be creative," Dr. van Dyck told those attending the meeting. He expects applications from every state.

According to the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (MISH) in Austin, Texas, at least a dozen respected abstinence-only programs are available. MISH's own National Guidelines for Sexuality and Character Education list numerous resources for such programs and materials.

Momentum began to build for abstinence-based programs when Republicans took over Congress in 1995. Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-NC) began insisting on federal funding for abstinence programs.

"Safe sex" programs already do and will continue to receive federal funding from various sources.

Planned Parenthood Devises New Strategy to Boost Birth-Control Sales

NEW YORK, NY- Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has released its first-ever in-home video kit designed to help families discuss sexuality. An unrestricted grant from Pharmacia & Upjohn, the maker of the contraceptive injection Depo-Proverar, supports the marketing of the new product, called Talking About Sex: A Guide for Families.

Citing epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the crisis of unintended pregnancies, Planned Parenthood is touting Talking About Sex as the antidotal "tool from a trusted source." This video is a 30-minute, animated film that features four families discussing puberty, relationships, pregnancy, abstinence, and contraception. The kit, geared toward families with children ages 10-14, also includes a comprehensive resource guide for parents and a workbook for children.

"The world is different for today's young people. Parents are concerned about how to convey accurate information and values to kids," said PPFA President Gloria Feldt. "In addition to knowing how to talk to adolescents about sexuality, parents of older teens who are sexually active need to know about the issues that can affect them, such as the newer contraceptive choices like the three-month shot [Depo-Proverar], the implant [Norplantr], and the female condom-options that weren't around when [parents] were learning about sex."

In addition to normal sales, PPFA will make the kit widely available by distributing it through video rental outlets, bookstores, libraries, and pediatricians' offices.

Talking About Sex has won endorsements from the National Education Association, YWCA, American Social Health Association, and National Council of the Churches of Christ as well as children's author Judy Blume and actress Whoopi Goldberg.

However, critics say that PPFA's 1995-96 annual report suggests a different motive for distribution of the video kit from mere concern about helping parents. Paul Sedlak of STOPP International, a New York-based pro-life group, notes that Planned Parenthood has experienced a damaging drop in its female birth-control clients during last year.

"Planned Parenthood's primary business is selling birth-control products to women. . . . They make tremendous profits from the sale of those products. We estimate it's a $70 million profit each year," said Mr. Sedlak.

STOPP International says that "one of the most significant" factors in this lost business is PPFA's reduced role in sex education. By 1995, the number of young Americans participating in PPFA programs had fallen to 1.5 million from 1.8 million in 1990. "Less sex education attendees means less children exposed to Planned Parenthood, which means less PP birth-control customers," Mr. Sedlak said.

Education Briefs

Virginia governor George Allen has decided to accept money from the federal Goals 2000 program. Gov. Allen dropped his two-year battle against the program after receiving a letter from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott promising that the federal funds could be solely used for the purchase of computers. Observers believe that Virginia will have to finance Goals 2000 mandates with state funds. All 50 states now receive Goals 2000 money.

Schools' progress toward reaching the educational benchmarks in Goals 2000 is sluggish. A report from the federal National Education Goals Panel shows no significant improvement in high school completion rates or student achievement since the goals were adopted in 1990. The report highlights a widening gap in achievement between white and minority students and greater incidents of drug use and threats or injuries to teachers since 1991.

The Oakland, CA Board of Education has amended its policy on "black English," popularly called "Ebonics." The board backed down from recognizing Ebonics as a separate and distinct language deserving of bilingual funding, but now insists on implementing a program that facilitates "the acquisition and mastery of English skills while respecting and embracing the legitimacy and richness" of this distinct language pattern.

Let's define sexual harassment. When 6-year-old Johnathan Prevette planted a kiss on a classmate, school officials accused him of sexual harassment. When 59 11-year-old girls were forced to disrobe and spread-eagle for a genital exam, without parental knowledge or consent, despite the girls crying and trying to resist, the school officials closed ranks against the girls and their parents and claimed it was legal and according to "procedure."

Advice on Inventive Spelling

The Illinois Reading Council Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1., included a 4-page pull-out pamphlet called "Understanding and Supporting Children's Invented Spelling" by Donald Richgels of Northern Illinois University. The pamphlet makes an enthusiastic defense of Inventive Spelling, giving approval to the following example:

Five-year-old Carrie has used inventive spelling to write a very important, personal message to her brother. What does it say?

[Answer: I want to play with you, Ted.
Why won't you let me? Love, Carrie]

According to Richgels, such "writing strategies" deserve our understanding and support. He continues: "When a child writes SRE for sorry, say, 'That's good spelling-I can read that!' rather than 'That's good, but it is not right. It should be S-O-R-R-Y.' Point out that you are aware of what the child's spelling shows about his or her stage of development. Say, 'Good for you-I can see that you have figured out what letter goes with "ssss" in sorry.' "

Inventive spellers, says Richgels, discover phonics on their own. He also assures readers that such spellers are not learning bad habits. For those children who insist on only using conventional spelling, they should be encouraged to make "invented spelling discoveries, to risk being unconventional."

Teenage Drug Use Climbs Still Higher

WASHINGTON, DC - A federally funded survey by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research shows that teenagers' use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes continues to climb. The 22nd annual "Monitoring the Future" report included 49,000 students at 435 public and private schools.

Most notable is the surge of marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders. Since 1991, marijuana use in the past year among 8th graders tripled from 6% to 18%. At the same time, 10th graders' use of the drug more than doubled - from 15% to 34%. Likewise, rates of use have sharply risen among high school seniors. Within the past year, 36% used marijuana, compared to 22% in 1992. Daily use of the drug increased from 2% to 5% among seniors.

Daily use of alcohol among 8th graders rose from .7% to 1% since last year. The survey found that 9.6% of 8th graders, compared to 8.3% last year, reported being drunk. The daily use of alcohol among 10th and 12th graders remained steady during the past year. Among these age groups, 21.3% and 31.3%, respectively, reported being drunk during this same period of time.

Teenagers continued to increase their use of cigarettes. The percentage of 8th graders who smoked cigarettes within the past month increased from 19% to 21%. The rate among 10th graders over the past month rose from 27.9% to 30.4%. Cigarette use among seniors remained unchanged at 34%. In contrast, 25% of adults smoke cigarettes.

Lloyd D. Johnston, who led the study, said that the increased use of cigarettes among teens spares virtually no demographic group. "The fact that we have as many youngsters smoking as we do is really unconscionable," he said.

The report notes a trend beginning in the early 1990s of increased teenage drug use at the same time that the rate of drug use among adults is stable or in decline. The survey reports that the use of other drugs, such as LSD, cocaine, hallucinogens, tranquilizers, and amphetamines is increasing, but at a slower pace.

Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the office of National Drug Control Policy, said that the increase in the teen drug use is "a major cause for alarm." He believes that youngsters who engage in risky behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse will also be at risk of crime, spouse and child abuse, and AIDS.

In response, the Clinton Administration has created a program that requires states to pass "zero tolerance" laws on teen drinking and driving by 1998 or else lose federal highway funds. In February, the Administration's tobacco initiative will outlaw cigarette sales to anyone below 18 years of age.

Book of the Month

A Pro-Family Response to the Illinois Academic Standards by Nancy Langham, Editor, 1996, Illinois Family Institute, 40 pp., paper.

The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) has published an analysis of the 1996 proposed Illinois Academic Standards, which had been written to "amplify and clarify" the 1985 goals. Instead, IFI says, the standards are actually weakened.

The summary report uncovers "examples of vague and unmeasurable standards, marked omissions, endorsement of unproven educational philosophies, and evidence of 'politically correct' social agendas" within the Standards about which thoughtful taxpayers, parents, and teachers ought to share concerns.

The standards and benchmarks outlined in the Standards document rarely specify what students should know. Rather, the Standards strongly emphasize amorphous processes such as "applying, comparing, analyzing, predicting, reporting, evaluating, and assessing"-all key components of "applied learning." The question remains: what ought students apply, compare, and analyze if not knowledge?

The Illinois Academic Standards address seven academic subjects: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Physical Development/Health, Fine Arts, and Foreign Language. Within each, problem solving, communicating, using technology, team work, and making academic connections are heavily emphasized. These learning processes, IFI notes, correlate perfectly with the workplace competencies listed in the 1992 Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report, in which corporate leaders, vocational educators, and union leaders described "workplace know-how for solid job performance."

The Standards, it seems, are concerned more with producing competent workers than educating a thinking citizenry. "Is it enough to train employable personnel as required by business and industry?" questions the IFI report.

All Americans, not only the Illinois Board of Education, ought to heed IFI's concerns and recommendations. Under the guise of education reform, statewide standards are gaining popularity nationwide but inspire little hope of reversing dismal academic performance trends.

A Pro-Family Response to the Illinois Academic Standards is available from the Illinois Family Institute at (630) 790-8370.

School Clinics & Socialized Medicine

by Genevieve Young

This FOCUS article is the last section of "The Medicalization of Public Schools" published in the January 1997 Education Reporter.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has invested heavily in school-based health clinics, and it has sought imaginative ways to implement them in the states under the guise of other programs. Beginning in 1989, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare was awarded a planning grant of $100,000 and in 1990 was awarded a Phase I Implementation grant for a total of more than $1.4 million under a RWJF program entitled Mental Health Services for Youth. The stated purpose of the program, according to the Foundation's brochure called Mental Health Services Program for Youth (8/88) was "to maximize the functional abilities of young people with serious mental disorders."

The brochure describes plans for "expanding funding strategies" and "coordinating existing mental health services agencies" at the state level and promoting the development of new mental health services for youth at the community level. In fact, the program was designed to create the impetus for the development of school-based health clinics.

Facts demonstrate that there was no clamor from Pennsylvanians for this program. In fact, Pennsylvania was selected by the Foundation. Then North Carolina Governor James Hunt chaired the Foundation's National Advisory Committee for this program, charged with selecting participating states.

In Kentucky, where a similar grant was awarded, records illustrate that then Governor Wallace Wilkinson, who signed the application under the program, was solicited by a letter from Governor Hunt in a letter dated Sept. 6, 1988. Kentucky accepted the invitation, with Governor Wilkinson writing, "The goals of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative are very much within the mission of [Commonwealth programs]." Kentucky, like Pennsylvania, was already participating in the federally-funded Child and Adolescent Service System Project (CASSP), which would provide "technical assistance" under the Mental Health Services for Youth grant program.

Kentucky originally identified 53 youths in the Bluegrass region who would be served by its program. The program has now been expanded to apply to potentially every child in Kentucky. Pennsylvania, like Kentucky, participated in the program, and its applications filed by the Department of Public Welfare for a planning grant in 1989 and a Phase I Implementation grant in 1990 would have mirrored Kentucky's. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Call for Proposals: Mental Health Services for Youth Program (8/88) set forth rigid requirements a state must meet before being awarded funds.

The role of state government in the Mental Health Services for Youth program was key, given state responsibilities in the development of mental health services financing programs and related policies. In Call for Proposals, RWJF directs state governments to form "state-community partnerships that can make major changes in financing, organization, and delivery of services. . . The state's participation will involve mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, education, Medicaid, and health planning agencies."


Getting Schools to Develop
School-based Clinics

Clearly, by combining "mental health," "education" and "Medicaid," along with "health planning agencies," the Foundation was directing the state to develop school-based health clinics. During the development or planning phase of the Mental Health Services for Youth program, projects were expected to:

  • "obtain commitments for matching support from state and community sources (30% in planning phase, 60% in the implementation phase, with an ultimate goal of 100% funding after the Foundation support is exhausted;
  • "provide evidence of necessary statutory authority to proceed with planned demonstration;
  • "secure the necessary interagency coordination agreements, and
  • "develop a refined workplan for implementation of a comprehensive, balanced system of care" (Call for Proposals, p. 6, emphasis added).

The Foundation indicated that priority would be given to projects that demonstrated "significant commitment in the form of new funding for services and policy changes in existing programs to facilitate development of a comprehensive, balanced system of high quality care," and "evidence of collaboration of multiple agencies at both the state and community levels, including agreements with institutional care providers to assure appropriate movement among levels of care" and "a high likelihood that the project will continue following the conclusion of Foundation support and that lasting changes will be made in the state's mental health services delivery and financing systems" (Call for Proposals, p. 8).

Foundation documents were even more specific about the objectives it planned to achieve, stating the expectation that "every grant dollar is expected to leverage five dollars in public monies" and that by establishing interagency coordination agreements concerning mental health for youth, the way would be paved to achieve comprehensive health reform. In fact, according to Kentucky documents, the interagency working group established under the Mental Health Services for Youth program assured the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation directly of its plans to develop school-based clinics as part of the effort to achieve comprehensive health reform in the state, just as the program brochure called upon the state to do.

The Program Director was Mary Jane England, M.D., Vice President, Medical Services, Prudential Insurance Company. (England served on the Clinton Health Care Reform Interdepartmental Working Group.) When Governor Wilkinson wrote a letter enclosing Kentucky's application, he thanked the members of the National Advisory Committee and "your staff" at the Prudential Insurance Company for long hours of work on the application process.

The Call for Proposals suggests that "diverse strategies" can be used to "broaden the array of mental health services for youth," including:

  • expanding private insurance coverage for these services through negotiations with insurers or through enactment of statutes;
  • expanding Medicaid coverage by taking advantage of existing optional services categories, waivers, the case management option, the EPSDT (Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment) Program, or by better leveraging of state dollars through increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates (which automatically increases federal dollars for these covered services);
  • restructuring administrative and fiscal relationships between state and local government agencies to provide greater flexibility and incentives for expanding the range of services (for example, the development of single points of fiscal and program authority or county/state cost-sharing arrangements);
  • reducing state hospital capacity in order to make available resources for community-based alternatives;
  • reallocating state monies through capping foster care budgets, reprogramming block grant monies, or guaranteeing provision of intensive home-based services for clients of the state's child welfare system;
  • blending mental health, education, juvenile justice, and child welfare resources to increase the availability of services for which there are joint agency responsibilities;
  • developing third-party billing plans to ensure that school systems recover some of the cost of supplying health and supportive services to emotionally disturbed children, and
  • obtaining new state funds for a broader array of home and community-based mental health and supportive services.

By combining such strategies, states can build on the existing service and financing infrastructure in developing a comprehensive, balanced system of care.

As in the case of the National School Health Services Program, every RWJF solution involves capturing more public monies, which essentially means changing laws-an activity the Foundation is prohibited from influencing because of its tax-exempt status. It is changing law, policy, and financing, without the knowledge, consent, or approval of the legislature.

In 1995, RWJF funded its Making the Grade Program: State and Local Partnerships to Establish School-Based Health Centers in the following nine states:

  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment $1.242 million
  • Connecticut Department of Public Health and Addiction Services $1.543 million
  • Health Research, Inc., Albany, NY $913,799
  • Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals $99,775
  • Maryland Office for Children, Youth, and Families, Baltimore, MD $100,000
  • NC Dept. of Environment, Health and Natural Resources $100,000
  • Oregon Department of Human Resources $100,000
  • Rhode Island Department of Health $99,629
  • State of Vermont Agency of Human Services $100,000

1995 Grants relating to school-based clinics and children's health were provided to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

1995 Grants relating to reducing so-called practice barriers to non-physicians, such as nurse practitioners, went to state universities in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Idaho, New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Planned Parenthood.

The Mental Health Services for Youth program will be "replicated" through the State of Illinois, Department of Children and Family Services and the Research for Mental Hygiene, Inc.

Genevieve Young is an attorney and director of the Center on Exempt Organization Responsibility, based in Danville, KY.

Fairfax County Plans
to End Student Privacy

FAIRFAX, VA - The Fairfax County, VA School Board is considering an $11 million computer database that stores up to 1,200 pieces of personal and academic information on each student.

The electronic profile, which could include medical and dental histories, records of behavioral problems, family income, and learning disabilities, would be used to track students from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Several board members and parents criticize both the steep expense of the database as well as the threat of privacy invasion, especially in light of the fact that the county is also considering making the system compatible with a nationwide data-exchange program organized by the U.S. Department of Education that provides information to other schools, universities, government agencies, and potential employers.

"This thing is Orwellian," said board member Carter Thomas. "It triples the amount of data that can be collected on individual students, teachers, and even janitors. And the information will be held in perpetuity."

Board members and officials say the database would be a useful tool to monitor students' problem areas and show how well schools are performing. For example, the system would allow administrators to know how students of a particular ethnicity or gender are performing in particular subject areas.

Also, unlike the old, "inefficient" system, administrators could access stored data on any student with a few keystrokes instead of having to riffle through file cabinets or consult guidance counselors.

Board member Jane K. Strauss supports the database. "For principals and teachers to best understand where the students are academically and how to adjust the curriculum to help them, you must have an updated student information system," she said.

John C. Gay, assistant superintendent for information technology, said that the County keeps approximately 400 pieces of data on each student, none of which is made available without parental consent.

According to Gay, the new system would contain safeguards to prevent unnecessary access. "A school nurse, for example, doesn't need to access a student's grade records. So we would block that out," he said. "There is a genuine and legitimate concern that people don't want their children's privacy invaded, and it's incumbent upon us to make sure we don't do that."

Neighboring Prince William County just spent $5 million over the last 18 months updating its data system. But even with that upgrade, the county keeps only 200 pieces of information on each student.

Marc Rotenberg, director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, "The privacy concerns are really extraordinary." The plan's opponents believe that a centralized database would be more vulnerable to invasion than the current system of both paper and computer files. Critics worry about the possibility that information, such as confidential medical records, could be mistakenly provided to insurance companies or potential employers.

Republican board members who oppose the project expect to be overridden by the 12-member board's Democratic majority. The awarding of the contract is set for sometime in February.

Education Reporter is published monthly by Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund with editorial offices at 7800 Bonhomme Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105, (314) 721-1213. The views expressed in this newsletter are those of the persons quoted and should not be attributed to Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. Annual subscription $25. Back issues available at $2.


 
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