National Writing Project

Federal Education Update

By: Ellin Nolan
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 5, No. 1
Date: January-February 2000

Summary: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which establishes more than 40 education programs will expire at the end of 2000 and must receive Congressional reauthorization for the next five years.


The largest education task facing the 106th Congress is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)-a bill that establishes more than 40 education programs, including Title I, Eisenhower Professional Development, Education Technology, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities, Impact Aid, Charter Schools and, most importantly, the National Writing Project. As of the first session recess in December, the job was far from complete.

That is not to say that progress has not been made. During 1999, over 50 hearings were held in Washington, D.C., and around the nation where practitioners and policy experts debated the relative strengths and weaknesses of the many programs authorized by the ESEA. Extensive revisions were recommended for the myriad of provisions that guide implementation of this exhaustive statute-a bill which authorizes almost $20 billion in annual spending for K-12 institutions and other designated recipients of federal funds.

Although not much legislation has been signed into law as a result of this oversight, education is now in the number one spot in the public consciousness. President Clinton and the leadership of both parties have convinced the public that improving student performance in America's schools is the top priority for the nation.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Congressman Bill Goodling (R-PA), passed an impressive list of education bills, including Fiscal Year 2000 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill (PL 106-113). This law appropriates over $35 billion in spending for the Department of Education-$9 million is included for the National Writing Project.

Senate consideration of the ESEA is moving at a much slower pace. Senator James Jeffords (R-VT), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, distributed a discussion draft outlining a comprehensive rewrite and expansion of the current law. Of note, Senator Jeffords proposed reauthorization of the National Writing Project and an increase in the authorized spending level to $15 million each year.

Both the House and Senate are determined to complete action on the ESEA bill before the target adjournment date of the 106th Congress on October 4, 2000, but it is likely that pending elections will increase the partisanship that fractured and at times paralyzed legislative activity during 1999. And although both political parties have embraced education as a national priority, they remain at odds over possible ways in which the government can best assist states in this important effort.

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