October 6, 1999
Honorable William F. Goodling
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I am writing to express my strong objections to H.R. 2300, the "Academic Achievement for All Act (Straight A's Act)," which I understand your committee will soon mark up. This bill would effectively permit States to convert a wide array of Federal education programs, including many of the very programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) that the Committee is separately considering under H.R. 2, into a single block grant program, with no meaningful standards or accountability for results. While the bill purports to address accountability, it would, in reality, allow States to delay implementing accountability systems and encourage them to adopt low standards of educational performance. Accordingly, if this bill were presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it.
The issue here is not who controls public education -- we all agree that that responsibility properly rests at the local and State levels. At stake, rather, is whether the Federal Government will maintain its long-standing, bipartisan commitment to helping local communities strengthen accountability, raise standards, and improve student achievement, by providing assistance that focuses on our neediest children and schools and on activities in which national leadership can play a critical role.
The American people rightly look to the Federal Government for leadership on national priorities. These include helping States and school districts raise educational standards and educational achievement for all students, improving the quality of teaching, bringing the benefits of technology to our Nation's students, and promoting family literacy.
The block grants of H.R. 2300 would replace these worthy and targeted efforts with general aid, providing no focus, no meaningful accountability for results, and no rationale for ongoing support. This bill would undo much of the ESEA reauthorization work that the Committee has just undertaken, resulting in no accountability for 5 years, and with no targeting of funds to school districts and schools, or for educational services, that most warrant Federal assistance. Nor, for that matter, does the bill ensure that funds actually end up in the Nation's classrooms or pay for instructional services for the Nation's children.
I urge the Committee to reject the block-grant approach and to work with the Administration to improve and reauthorize the ESEA as proposed by the President in his Educational Excellence for All Children Act of 1999, which he transmitted to the Congress earlier this year.
The Office of Management and Budget advises that there is no objection to the submission of this report, and that enactment of H.R. 2300 would not be in accord with the President's program.
Richard W. Riley
Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation.
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This page last updated October 6, 1999 (pjk)