Speeches and Testimony

Statement by

Michael Cohen
Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

Before the

U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations

On the

Fiscal Year 2001 Request for Elementary and Secondary Education

April 6, 2000

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the fiscal year 2001 budget request for the programs administered by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).

In the last six years, with support from the Department's elementary and secondary programs, all States have put into place academic standards that identify what all students should know and be able to achieve at key grade levels. In the next year, the States will complete development of student assessments aligned with those standards. Fiscal year 2001 is the time to make critical investments to raise achievement levels by driving standards to the classroom level. We need to demand more, invest more, and reward success as well. That is what the OESE budget is about -- investing in programs that provide children and teachers with the support they need to reach high standards.

For OESE programs, the 2001 budget request is $15.5 billion, an increase of $2.5 billion or 19.3 percent over fiscal year 2000. This request, which will fund the first year of activity under a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), continues a strong emphasis on strengthening accountability in Title I, reducing class size, strengthening teacher quality, modernizing our schools, and increasing after-school opportunities.

Modernizing Our Schools

Students and teachers cannot reach for excellence in outdated, falling down, overcrowded classrooms. For this reason, the Administration has proposed to subsidize almost $25 billion in bonds through the President's School Construction Bonds initiative. Under this program, holders of the bonds would receive tax credits in lieu of interest, and States and school districts would be able to issue the bonds without paying interest. While this tax-side initiative is not before this Subcommittee, for 2001 we are proposing a complementary School Renovation Grant and Loan program, carried out under ESEA and supported with $1.3 billion in new funding on the discretionary side of the budget. This program would help support small-scale but urgently needed renovation projects in 5,000 schools by providing $50 million in grants to approximately 118 school districts with at least 50 percent of their children residing on Indian lands, $125 million in grants to other high-need school districts, and $1.125 billion to subsidize an estimated $6.5 billion in 7-year no-interest loans.

Accountability for Results

The 2001 OESE budget emphasizes accountability for results, particularly for schools participating in Title I. Our request for Title I includes $250 million for a second year of Title I Accountability Grants, an increase of $116 million over the 2000 level, to help States and school districts turn around failing schools. At least 70 percent would be distributed to school districts, with a priority on those with schools identified for corrective action under Title I. These funds will help ensure that schools that are identified by States and school districts as persistently low performing receive the help they need. Our evaluation of Title I shows that, at present, all too often they do not. We must not tolerate inaction when it comes to low-performing schools. We must provide the resources and support to turn them around. And if that does not work, we should not hesitate to take strong corrective actions, including closing them down. In addition, to help make sure no student is trapped in a chronically failing school, we would require that all districts participating in Title I give students attending schools identified for corrective action the option of attending another public school.

Another way to strengthen accountability is to recognize success. The budget provides $50 million for a new Recognition and Reward program that would reward States for improving student achievement and for reducing the achievement gap in math between high- and low-performing students, as measured by State results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

To reinforce accountability for results across programs, we are working closely with States, school districts, and technical assistance providers to collect and analyze the data needed to report to Congress and the public on the effectiveness of our programs.

Accelerating Change

We also want to balance accountability for meeting high standards with new resources to help students meet those standards. This is why, for example, the request would provide a $547 million increase for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, more than doubling funding to a total of $1 billion. These funds would support high-quality after-school and other extended learning opportunities for nearly 2.5 million children, with a priority for low-performing schools.

We would also add $450 million to the Class Size Reduction program, for a total of $1.75 billion, as a third installment toward achieving the Administration's goal of hiring 100,000 teachers by 2005. The program helps improve educational results by reducing class sizes to 18 students in the early grades, where research has shown that class-size reduction has the greatest impact. With the 35 percent matching requirement proposed by the Administration, the request would bring the total number of teachers hired during the initiative's first three years to about 49,000. A portion of the funds could also support professional development for teachers, testing of new teachers for academic content knowledge, and activities to help them to meet State certification requirements.

Our programs are putting more emphasis on achieving local accountability for improved student performance through research-based reforms. The OESE portion of the budget request includes $190 million for Comprehensive School Reform Demonstrations, a $20 million increase. At this level, $140 million would be available for new awards to help an additional 1,900 Title I schools examine successful reform models and utilize school reform expertise to implement comprehensive reforms that are based on reliable research and effective practice.

Another way to accelerate change, partially by focusing on accountability, is through the expansion of public school choice. We are requesting $175 million for Charter Schools to support the Administration's goal of creating 3,000 charter schools by 2002. Currently, 36 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have charter school legislation, and more than 1,750 charter schools in operation. The request would help launch about 700 new charter schools, and continue grants to approximately 1,000 existing schools.

We are also requesting $20 million for a proposed new Opportunities to Improve Our Nation's Schools (OPTIONS) program that would support 40 grants to school districts to implement and test other approaches to public school choice.

In addition, $450 million is requested for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, which has supported recent advances in access to technology in schools. Under the Administration's reauthorization proposal, the program would focus on helping schools and teachers effectively integrate technology into the curriculum and would target funds more effectively to needy schools.

Improving Teacher Quality

Improving teacher quality is a major emphasis in the Administration's proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. We need to make sure both new and experienced teachers are prepared to teach to the new State standards, and help States and communities deal with the projected nationwide shortage of 2 million teachers over the next 10 years. Our budget provides $1 billion for a comprehensive approach to reaching these goals.

At the center of the request is Teaching to High Standards State Grants, a $690 million formula grant program that would replace the Eisenhower Professional Development State Grants. This program would focus on sustained, intensive, professional development for teachers in core academic subjects, and also help States and communities align curricula and assessments with higher standards.

We are also requesting funding for three new activities, carried out under the Teaching to High Standards National Programs authority, to support teacher recruitment and retention efforts in high-poverty school districts. The $75 million Hometown Teachers program would support comprehensive approaches to teacher recruitment and retention. A $50 million Higher Standards, Higher Pay initiative would make competitive grants to help school districts implement peer review systems to raise teacher standards while attracting and retaining high-quality teachers and principals through better pay. A new $50 million Teacher Quality Incentives initiative would reward high-poverty school districts that show the largest increases in the number of teachers certified and teaching in the fields in which they are trained.

Also, as part of the $1 billion request, a new $30 million Early Childhood Educator Professional Development program would create high-quality professional development opportunities to improve the knowledge and skills of early childhood educators and caregivers who work in high-poverty communities. In addition, a new $40 million School Leadership initiative would provide professional development opportunities for superintendents, principals, and prospective principals to improve their ability to function as school leaders. Finally, $25 million would fund Transition to Teaching: Troops to Teachers, building on a Department of Defense model to recruit, prepare, and support a wide range of talented career-changing professionals as teachers, especially in high-poverty school districts and high-need subject areas.

Closing Achievement Gaps

The 2001 budget includes substantial new resources for OESE programs to help ensure that poor and minority students are not left behind in the Nation's push for higher achievement. The request includes $8.4 billion, a $416 million increase over 2000, for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, to help more than 13 million students in all grades master the basics and close achievement gaps between disadvantaged and other students. With Title I, poor and low-achieving children receive extra instruction in reading, mathematics, and other subjects, and benefit from schoolwide programs that promote whole school reforms to accelerate academic progress.

To help children learn to read well by the end of the third grade, the budget provides $286 million, a $26 million increase, for the Reading Excellence program. The program supports high-quality reading instruction and tutoring for young children, professional development for teachers, reading programs after school and during the summer, and other literacy activities.

The Even Start family literacy program also concentrates on the early years by focusing on low-income families with children from birth through age 7. Our $150 million request for the program would support more than 900 projects in all States to improve school readiness, improve literacy and parenting skills of parents, and help every child read independently by the end of third grade.

About 90 percent of American Indian children are enrolled in public schools, and these students are the primary focus of our Indian Education programs, which would receive $115.5 million, a 50 percent increase. The increase would provide larger formula grants through Grants to Local Educational Agencies, our primary vehicle for improving the education of Indian children. In addition, the increase would be used to initiate the American Indian Administrator Corps, which would, over 5 years, provide scholarships to, and train and recruit, over 500 American Indians and Alaska Natives to become effective school administrators in areas with high concentrations of Indian students. Other funds would continue the $10 million American Indian Teacher Corps initiative, and help implement a new comprehensive research agenda that would, among other things, produce better data on the educational needs and progress of American Indian students.

The request targets additional funds to Hispanic Americans as part of the Administration's Hispanic Education Action Plan. To help expand educational opportunities and improve the outcomes for Hispanic students, the request provides, in addition to increases for programs like Title I, significant increases for the Title I Migrant Education program and the High School Equivalency and College Assistance Migrant programs. These three programs help the children of migrant workers, and young migrant workers themselves, stay in school, complete high school, and enter college.

The $20 million request for the Advanced Placement (AP) Incentives program would help ensure that low-income high-school students have greater access to advanced placement classes and tests by paying the AP test fees of low-income students and encouraging their participation in advanced placement courses through distance learning, teacher professional development, and other approaches.

Other Program Highlights

Requests for other OESE programs will help ensure that teachers and children get the assistance they need to reach for high standards. For example, our $650 million request for Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities would help ensure that students are able to learn in safe and drug-free environments by supporting comprehensive, research-based approaches to drug and violence prevention. The request includes $439 million for State Grants, $201 million for National Programs, including $122 million for the interagency Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative and $50 million for the Middle School Coordinator initiative, and $10 million to support a new Federal response to violent deaths and other crises affecting schools, called Project SERV.

Improving environments for learning is the focus of a promising new initiative, the Small, Safe and Successful High Schools program, that builds on research showing that, when students are part of a smaller, more intimate learning community, they are more successful academically and socially. The request, which expands activities supported last year through a Smaller Learning Communities initiative, would provide $120 million to create smaller learning environments in approximately 700 high schools, through such strategies as schools-within-schools and career academies.

Also, $33 million would support Parent Information and Resource Centers, which would be restructured under the Administration's reauthorization bill to focus on helping States and districts develop their capacity to improve parent involvement in their children's education.

Finally, for Impact Aid, which provides financial assistance to school districts affected by the loss of revenues attributable to Federal activities, our request is $770 million. The request would target funds to those districts most genuinely burdened by the presence of federally connected children, which include children living on Indian lands, and children who live on Federal property and who have a parent on active duty in the uniformed services, in civilian Federal employment, or in the employ of a foreign military services. The average per-child payment on behalf of those categories of children would increase by 7 percent.


Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. My colleagues and I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

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Last Updated -- [4/05/2000] (mjj)