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Statement of Administration Policy: S. 695 - Educational Excellence Act of 1989

November 13, 1989


(Kassebaum (R) KS and 37 others)

S. 695, although flawed, represents progress toward enactment of many of the important initiatives that President Bush proposed earlier this year (S.695, as introduced) to help improve the quality of the Nation's educational performance. The bill would be improved materially by the changes recommended in Secretary Cavazos' letter of October 18, 1989, to the Labor and Human Resources Committee. The Administration urges enactment of those changes. Most importantly:

  • The bill authorizes programs beginning in fiscal year 1991, and the two largest authorizations (Merit Schools and Magnet Schools of Excellence) are contingent upon appropriations at higher than specified levels for other programs. The bill should be amended to make these initiatives friee standing and start them in FY 1990, because the Nation needs action now.

  • The bill should authorize the Administration's requested "Presidential Awards for Excellence in Education." (Title I, Part D, of S. 695, as introduced). Recognizing the central role of the teacher in the educational achievement of our children, and providing substantial awards for excellent teachers, are essential ingredients to for true education reform.

  • Title I, Part A, of the bill (Presidential Merit Schools) should be amended so that selection as a Presidential Merit School is not limited to Chapter 1 schools, and States are not inflexibly required to divide the number of awards evenly between elementary and secondary schools.

  • Title II of the bill (National Science Scholars) should be amended to eliminate the constitutionally dubious gender-based selection process and to increase the size of the scholarship award from $5,000 to $10,000 per year.

  • Title III of the bill (Drug-Free Schools Urban and Rural Emergency Grants) should be amended to authorize the Secretary, as the President proposed, to make a small number of one-time competitive grants to local educational agencies with the most severe drug problems. These emergency grants should not lose their impact by being widely distributed throughout every State.

  • The Administration urges that Titles VII and VIII of s. 695, amending the student aid title of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), be deleted. These provisions have nothing to do with the substance of the Educational Excellence Act. They raise a host of issues that can only be considered properly in the context of the next reauthorization of the HEA. Additionally, two of these provisions would force unwarranted increases in the cost of student aid programs that would likely have to be offset by reduced awards to the needy. The first of these reduces the amount that dependent students must contribute to pay for their own education; the second liberalizes still further the eligibility of independent students.

  • The Administration remains strongly opposed to the provision of the bill that directs the Secretary to provide noncompetitive Federal funding of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The Board's functions are properly voluntary and non-Federal in nature and do not require Federal funding to be successful. The Administration understands that Senator Kassebaum intends to offer a substitute which would authorize an open competition for awards for research and development on voluntary assessment and certification procedures for teachers. This substitute would not establish a national curriculum, and Would not interfere with the development of alternative certification by the States. Given only a choice between these two alternatives, the Administration would prefer the Kassebaum amendment.

George Bush, Statement of Administration Policy: S. 695 - Educational Excellence Act of 1989 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project