EDUCATION; Congressional Record Vol. 146, No. 55
(Senate - May 08, 2000)

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[Pages S3569-S3575]
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                               EDUCATION

  Mr. KYL. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking Senator Thomas, 
again, for allowing the time to be devoted to this important subject 
which we began discussing last week and hopefully will be able to 
continue this week, namely, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 
and specifically the bill the Republican majority in the Senate has put 
forth called the Educational Opportunities Act, S. 2.
  It is my hope that by the end of this week we will have an 
opportunity to vote on this legislation, to finally conclude our work 
and move this bill forward so we can present it to the President for 
his signature and actually achieve a historic reform opportunity this 
year. As I said, I hope we will have that result. The reason, however, 
I have some doubt is that we have seen what I fear is a trend, on the 
part of

[[Page S3570]]

the Democratic minority, to continue to talk about education but in the 
end not allow the Senate to vote on any meaningful piece of 
legislation. I think the debate so far has vividly portrayed two very 
different views of how the Federal Government should proceed with 
educational reform in our country.
  On the one hand, you have the majority arguing for flexibility 
combined with accountability: Flexibility, so the local entities, the 
school districts, the States, the schools, and the parents can have the 
ability to direct the dollars from the Federal Government to do those 
things they know work best in their particular area, and to have some 
accountability for that by ensuring that at the end of the year they 
demonstrate what they have done with this money has actually produced 
results. We are talking here about academic achievement, we are talking 
about meaningful results, not simply more students in a 
particular program or more teachers hired or more school buildings 
built. We are talking about some tangible results of those particular 
actions. So it is flexibility with accountability.

  Part of the way we achieve that is through greater competition, which 
is driven by more parental choice, parents having the ability to decide 
what is best for their kids; after all, they are the ones we presume 
care the most about them, know the most about their needs, and 
understand how best, therefore, to deal with those kids' needs.
  On the other hand, you have the minority that has been arguing for 
the same system of Federal mandates and regulations that, frankly, 
after 35 years have proven to be a failure. It is the same system with 
a new layer of mandates and poll-tested, Washington-run spending 
programs added onto what we have right now. One of our colleagues from 
the other side put it this way. He said:

       The Senate has a choice. Will it pass the Republican 
     Educational Opportunities Act or, on the other hand, are we 
     going to follow the tried and tested programs that have 
     demonstrated results for children at the local level?

  They vote for the tried and tested programs that have demonstrated 
results. They have demonstrated results, all right. The problem is, not 
many people I know are very happy about those results. An old farmer 
friend of mine once said: If you want to get out of a hole, the first 
thing you do is stop digging. We just want to keep digging the hole 
deeper and deeper, it appears some of our colleagues are saying. That 
is not producing the right kind of results, good results: Enhanced 
achievement on test scores, enhanced ability to compete, and a real 
achievement-based accountability, which is what the Republican plan is 
asking for.
  I have to say I am disappointed by this debate. I am disappointed 
with the direction in which the legislation itself appears to be 
heading because the American people have told us they want results. 
They would like to see reform now. Every poll says this is the No. 1 
issue of concern of the American people--to improve our educational 
system.
  As our colleague on the other side said, yes, the current system has 
produced tried and tested results. But over 80 percent of the American 
people do not like those results. They are not happy with those 
results. They think we can do better. We can do better. We are spending 
an awful lot of money, and we ought to get something for that money. 
But more important than that, more important than the accountability to 
the taxpayers, is the accountability to our children, our future.
  These kids have one opportunity to get their education--right now. We 
are not talking about 20 years from now. We are talking about the 
children who are in our educational system today. Each year we delay is 
another year our children are involved in a school system that is less 
than adequate by most standards.
  The American people who are demanding accountability are going to be 
very disappointed if we conclude this debate with yet another year 
failing to enact fundamental reforms. That is what has me concerned 
because there seems to be a rather cynical strategy developing on the 
other side to talk this thing to death, to set up a whole lot of 
amendments on which we have to vote, some of which have nothing to do 
with education, and then, in effect, put the blame on the Republican 
majority until, finally, when we have to move on to other business, the 
majority leader has to say: If you are not going to let us get to a 
final conclusion on this, if we cannot vote for these reforms, we have 
to move on. However, the blame would not be on the majority but on the 
minority for its refusal to let us move on and get this legislation 
passed.
  I do not think it is too late to put politics aside and put our 
children first, but time is running out. I call upon my colleagues: 
Let's keep talking about education. Let's put the political 
gamesmanship aside for just a few hours. Is it just possible, for 
example, that we can conclude debate on one bill without getting bogged 
down on gun control?
  Yet I predict, before this week is out, we will have colleagues from 
the other side say: We cannot really deal with S. 2 unless we deal with 
issues relating to gun control.
  Let's talk about what is in this education bill, what is in our 
proposal. It may be that some of our colleagues on the other side are 
actually uncomfortable focusing the debate on education because of this 
notion that the current system is working just fine. I think they are 
reluctant to talk about reform, but the American people want reform. As 
I said, they know we can do better.
  We heard last week from members of the minority that we cannot trust 
parents to do what is right for children. One of our colleagues said: 
Where are the guarantees that the parents will make the right 
decisions? There are no guarantees that parents will make the right 
decisions, but I suppose one can ask: Who is more likely to make right 
decisions for their children, the parents or some bureaucrat in 
Washington, DC, or some Senator in Washington, DC?
  My heart is in the right place when it comes to taking care of the 
schoolkids in this country, but I certainly would not presume to set 
all the policies in Washington that would fit the needs of every single 
schoolchild in this country. We in Washington just do not have that 
capability. There are no guarantees that every parent will make every 
decision correctly, but it is a lot more likely that parents making the 
decisions will result in good decisions for the most number of kids 
than if those decisions are relegated to Washington, DC.
  Another thing we heard was that the leaders in our States and 
communities cannot be trusted to do what is right for America's young 
people; again, we need guarantees. By guarantees they mean Federal 
enforcement that these local officials will do the right thing and, of 
course, the right thing is defined by the bureaucrats in Washington, 
DC: You have to do it the way Washington wants to do it or you are not 
going to get the money.

  One of the things we heard was that it would be a better approach to 
the Republican reform ideas to simply fine-tune the Federal regulations 
that impose 50 percent of the paperwork requirements on the local 
schools, and that is in exchange for only 7 percent of their funding. 
In other words, the 7 percent of funding that primary and secondary 
education receives from the Federal Government accounts for 50 percent 
of the paperwork. It is a pretty expensive proposition, in other words, 
to get the Federal funding. Schools go after that Federal funding even 
though it is a very inefficient way for them to fund the education of 
the children.
  The point is this: How can you expect to get different results if you 
keep doing things the same way? The answer is, of course, you cannot. 
That is where the reforms in S. 2 come into play. One of the things 
which exemplifies this debate is the issue of class size or class size 
reduction.
  Members of the minority have said we have to use this money for the 
purpose of hiring more teachers so we can achieve a class size 
reduction. The majority has said we need to let the local schools 
decide if that is their top priority. If it is, then they have the 
ability to use the funds for that purpose. If they have a higher 
priority, who should make that judgment of how to spend the money? 
Should it be those of us in Washington or should it be the people who 
understand what their priorities are?

[[Page S3571]]

  Almost everyone would like to see smaller class sizes. We intuitively 
believe that would be better for education, but with every other area 
of this debate, we do have to look at the track record. The fact is 
that class sizes have fallen over the period that the Elementary and 
Secondary Education Act has been in existence, but performance has not 
tracked. George Will, with his wonderful characteristic dry wit, looked 
at the data, and this is what he said:

       Pupil-teacher ratios have been shrinking for a century. In 
     1955 pupil-teacher ratios in the public elementary and 
     secondary schools were 30.2-to-one and 20.9-to-one 
     respectively. In 1998 they were 18.9-to-one and 14.7-to-one. 
     We now know it is possible to have, simultaneously, declining 
     pupil-teacher ratios and declining scores on tests measuring 
     schools' cognitive results.

  The truth is, we have declining class sizes and with it declining 
test scores. We still think it would be a good idea to reduce the size 
of classes; that there are other reasons why those test scores have not 
improved. But under the proposal from the President, they have to spend 
the money strictly on hiring teachers. They cannot use it for anything 
else, as I will get to in a moment.
  One of the things this money can be used for is to create more 
charter schools, something that has improved the education in my own 
State of Arizona. Our State superintendent of education, Lisa Graham 
Keegan, has pointed out under the President's proposal, the $17 million 
Arizona would receive to hire new teachers could actually start 425 new 
charter schools across the State, more than enough schools to keep 
class sizes relatively small, but they would not have that flexibility 
under the President's plan, under the Democrats' plan. No, they have to 
do it their way or no way. The only way they get the money is if they 
follow precisely their guidelines. That is the way it has been all 
these years. We can see the results. Again, the American people are 
asking for something different.

  One of the ideas embodied in our legislation is something we call the 
Straight A's approach. The idea behind it is to actually look at where 
the Federal Government has been successful in making major reforms and 
applying that same technique to education.
  There are few successes more dramatic than our success in welfare 
reform. It cannot be done, we were told, but we did it, and the results 
have been dramatic. The idea was pretty simple. The Federal Government 
said: We will repeal the regulations that have historically defined 
this program, and we will give unprecedented flexibility to the 
reformers in State government, as well as unprecedented accountability 
for them. Go out and pursue reforms, we said, and if you are 
successful, you will be rewarded. If you fail, then you will lose some 
of your latitude.
  As with welfare reform, we need to put aside the certainty that 
Washington knows best and all wisdom that is formulated comes from 
Washington.
  I know there is no such monopoly because I have the good fortune of 
coming from a State where education policy is made by people who really 
have been innovative, people such as our State superintendent of 
education, Lisa Graham Keegan.
  I want to present some of the things she has had to say. When we 
consider how to provide this flexibility to education just as we did 
with welfare reform, I think we will see the same results. This is some 
of what Ms. Keegan had to say:

       Federal programs have tied dollars to bureaucracies and 
     institutions, not to students.

  What that illustrates is the disorientation from Washington. We 
believe if you send the money to the institution, to the organization, 
automatically good things will happen. The fact is, we ought to be 
focused on what some call child-centered education. We ought to figure 
out how to get the money we want to educate these children as close to 
those children as possible because the sad fact is, when we send it to 
an institution or a bureaucracy, a significant amount of that money 
gets stuck at that bureaucracy.
  As with many Federal programs, it costs a lot of money to administer 
the program, to comply with all of the Federal redtape and paperwork. 
That is why we say that, while the Federal Government only supplies 7 
percent of the primary and secondary education dollars the States 
spend, the States have to spend 50 percent of their administration 
costs just administering that 7 percent at the Federal level. That is 
why if we can get over this business of tying dollars to the 
bureaucracies and the institutions and tie it more to the students, it 
will be a much more efficient expenditure of the money.
  Ms. Keegan also says:

       But before we ask Washington to get involved with the 
     education of our children, we need to think about exactly 
     what we're asking for. Sometimes, when we ask Washington for 
     help, we run a very real risk of getting it. . . . More often 
     than not, the government's preferred method for 
     alleviating a perceived problem is to create a federally 
     funded program with federally authored strings and 
     federally enforced regulations. This approach may work 
     fine when it comes to matters that have clearly defined 
     federal responsibilities, such as highways or post 
     offices. When it comes to education, which has always been 
     largely a state and local matter with no clear federal 
     role, such an approach tends not to work so well. . . .
       . . . we still let Washington drive state and local 
     decision making through the lure of federal dollars tied to 
     programs with hazily-defined goals and well-defined 
     regulations.

  Then here is how she concludes this point:

       The problem with this approach is that the federal 
     government has tied its dollar to a program rather than to a 
     student. An at-risk student who succeeds will, more often 
     than not, find him or herself ineligible for more at-risk 
     services. When the student moves on, the federal dollar dries 
     up--and it won't come back until that child again slips into 
     the at-risk group and becomes eligible for the federal 
     program once more. These kinds of programs thrive on student 
     stagnation, even failure.

  We had that same situation with the welfare program. We tended to 
measure the success of the welfare program by how many people we had on 
the welfare rolls, by how much money we were spending on that. Then one 
day it dawned on someone that we ought to be measuring the success of 
the welfare program by how few people were on the welfare rolls and by 
how little we had to spend.
  As a result, by giving flexibility to the local governments with 
regard to welfare, we have cut the welfare rolls in half. We are not 
spending near as much money on welfare. We have only half as many 
people involved in the welfare program. Is that failure? No. It is a 
success. And so it is with education.
  If we are going to devote Federal dollars to the education of the 
students, then we ought to provide those dollars to the students so 
that wherever they think they can get their best education, whatever 
their needs are in terms of priorities, the money will be spent for 
that, not because the Federal Government makes a judgment that a 
particular expenditure is necessarily the right thing.
  I think it is important to reiterate our responsibility to those who 
will pay the highest price if we fail to take advantage of the 
opportunities that are here presented. As I said, it is not necessarily 
the American taxpayer, even though we have, as stewards of those 
taxpayer dollars, an obligation to see that they are efficiently spent.
  No. Those that will pay the highest price, if we fail, are the 
schoolchildren, the children who, this year, will not receive an 
improved education because, perhaps, we will not get these reforms 
passed this year. They will have to go yet one more year stuck with the 
kind of bureaucratic redtape and regulations that have failed them thus 
far in their careers.
  Last week, we also learned that there are those on the other side who 
do not agree that choice should be available to children in failing or 
unsafe schools. I always find this interesting because very frequently 
people who make this argument have sent their kids to private schools.
  I am a product of the public schools. That is where I received my 
education, including my college and law school education. It was from 
the public schools. Both of my parents were public school graduates and 
public school teachers. And others in my family are or have been 
teachers in public schools. So I fully appreciate the need to improve 
our public schools.

  I think one does that by enabling some competition between these 
schools, and also with the private schools. What we find is that when 
that competition is allowed to work, everyone benefits. To use a crude 
example, it

[[Page S3572]]

is similar to the automobile manufacturers. If one of them finds a new 
way to improve the way a car operates, it isn't long before the others 
find a way to incorporate that same technique or technology into their 
cars. If they do not, they are going to lose sales.
  By the same token, when a school finds that something really works 
well--if we give parents a choice to send their kids to that school--
the other schools are soon going to find that they will want to 
incorporate that same kind of technique to keep the kids there.
  That is especially the case because so much of our Federal and State 
funding goes to the institutions, as we have said. If they want to 
continue to get that funding, under the Republican proposal, they would 
have to be able to continue to attract the kids.
  In my State of Arizona, we have, in effect, open enrollment so there 
can be some degree of competition among the public schools. We also 
have more charter schools--almost 350 at last count--than any other 
State. I think it is a third of the charter schools in the country. 
These charter schools promote a lot of competition. A lot of them have 
learned to attract students by doing things a little differently. Some 
of the larger public schools have picked up on these techniques and 
have incorporated them into their curricula, into their procedures. As 
a result, they can be quite competitive with those charter schools. It 
does not hurt one at the expense of another.
  It is not a zero sum game. Competition is like invention. What it 
does is lift all of the boats. When one begins to do something better, 
the others soon follow behind and copy it in order to keep up with the 
first one. When you have that kind of competition, therefore you can 
have innovation. If you have flexibility, you have the ability to 
experiment, and the net result is a better opportunity for more kids. 
That is what we want to promote in this Federal legislation.
  As I say, in my own State of Arizona we already have a significant 
element of this in our public schools. But what we found last week from 
those on the other side of the debate was that there is a real desire 
to keep students and parents from having this additional flexibility, 
this additional choice. It seems to me there is a fear of it. There is 
a fear that not everyone will be able to do as well as those who do the 
innovation, and somebody might actually fail or fall behind, which 
would be bad.
  Who is the somebody they are talking about? They are not focused on 
the student. They are talking about the school, that it would not be 
fair if a particular school failed. Why wouldn't it be fair if a 
particular school failed if the students all had the opportunity to go 
to the successful school? What is not fair is that failing schools keep 
ahold of failing students. We are failing in the education of these 
kids, and they will never be able to go back and get it.
  Yes, we have some remedial education. But that is a very hard way to 
reeducate people in our society. So it is not the schools that we ought 
to be concerned about; it is the students in those schools. I remain 
convinced that no American child should be trapped in a school that 
cannot guarantee a good education. We have an obligation to those 
students.

  So whatever happens with this bill, I believe we will continue to 
pursue this idea of choice, of competition, of flexibility, because it 
will work. Sooner or later, this approach will provide the basis for 
reform that will characterize the Federal program that provides the 
Federal funding to primary and secondary education. I still believe we 
can make a difference in this area.
  So while it may become a disappointment that we are not able to 
conclude work this year on this important bill, that we may not be able 
to pass a bill that we can send to the President for his signature, I 
think, in the end, the power of this idea of flexibility and 
accountability and more choice--the power of that idea--will end up 
defining the Federal program.
  It would be better if we could do it this year because that would 
mean we would not allow another year to pass with the same devastating 
results for the kids who are in school right now where far too many of 
them are failing. That is my hope.
  I urge my colleagues this week to take this debate seriously, to try 
to move on beyond extraneous issues, and in the end, to bring it to a 
close so we can actually have a vote on S. 2 and get this important 
reform measure to the American people where it can begin to work.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The distinguished Senator from Wyoming is 
recognized.
  Mr. THOMAS. I thank the Senator from Arizona. He obviously believes 
very strongly in this issue and has defined very clearly where we are 
with two very definite points of view. One is that the Federal 
Government ought to make the rules, ought to set up the redtape, ought 
to make the decisions here to be implemented in the country; the other 
is to send the assistance from here to local schools so they can make 
the kinds of decisions that are necessary to make their schools 
successful.
  So I say to the Senator, thank you very much.
  I yield to the Senator from Alabama.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The distinguished Senator from Alabama is 
recognized.
  Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I want to share some additional thoughts 
with the Members of the Senate and those watching what we can do to 
improve education in America.
  I believe in public education. I have taught and my wife has taught 
in public schools. I say that to express how deeply I care about it. We 
have been active in PTA as our kids have gone forward. We want to 
improve the system. We want to make learning occur more regularly. We 
want to help teachers. I believe in American teachers. They are some of 
the finest in the world. They are well trained. They give their hearts 
and souls to it, only to be frustrated by regulations, paperwork, and 
discipline problems resulting from mandated rules passed by this 
Congress.
  I am going to share some thoughts today, and those in education in 
any State of America will know what I am saying is true. They will have 
heard these kinds of examples time and time again. But the vast 
majority of Americans will not believe it; they will not believe these 
things occur.
  Over 25 years ago, for example, we passed a federal disabilities act. 
It was designed to mandate to school systems and require that they not 
shut out disabled kids from the classroom and that they be involved in 
the classroom. If they have a hearing loss, or a sight loss, or if they 
have difficulty moving around, in a wheelchair, or whatever, the school 
system must make accommodations for them. They would be mainstreamed. 
They would not be treated separately.
  That was a good goal, a goal from which we should not retreat. I hope 
no one interprets what I say today as a retreat from that goal. But in 
the course of that time, we have created a complex system of Federal 
regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special 
treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in 
accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all 
over America. I say that very sincerely.
  Teachers I have been talking to have shared stories with me. I have 
been in 15 schools around Alabama this year. I have talked to them 
about a lot of subjects. I ask them about this subject in every school 
I go to, and I am told in every school that this is a major problem for 
them. In fact, it may be the single most irritating problem for 
teachers throughout America today.
  It was really brought to my attention a little over a year ago when a 
long-time friend, District Attorney David Whetstone, in Baldwin County, 
AL, called me about a youngster in the school system classified as 
having a disability. It is called ``emotional conflict.'' He was 
emotionally conflicted. He could not, or would not, behave. An aide 
would meet him in the morning at his home, get on the bus with him, and 
go to school, sit through the class all day, and ride home on the 
school bus with him. This student was known to curse principals and 
teachers openly in the classroom. Because he was a disabled student, he 
could not be disciplined in the normal way. The maximum 10-day 
suspension rule--and 45 days is the maximum a child can be disciplined 
under this Federal law and then they are back in the classroom. One 
day, he attacked the school bus driver on the way home. The aide tried 
to restrain him. He then attacked the

[[Page S3573]]

aide. District Attorney Whetstone told me, ``I was never more stunned 
when I talked to school officials and they told me this is common in 
our county.''
  We have children we cannot control because of this Federal law. He 
came to Washington, and we sat up in the gallery and talked about it. I 
respect David Whetstone and his views. He said this cannot be. I began 
to ask around, is this true? As a matter of fact, this very incident 
was focused on in Time magazine. There was a full-page story about it 
called ``The Meanest Kid in Alabama,'' and ``60 Minutes'' did a story 
about it because it is, unfortunately, so common around the country.
  What can we do about it? I began to ask leaders in education around 
the State. The State superintendent: ``Absolutely, it is one of the 
biggest problems we have.'' I talked to Paul Hubbard, head of the 
teachers union in Alabama: ``Absolutely, it is a big problem.'' ``I am 
tired,'' he said in the newspaper recently, ``of children cursing my 
teachers in the classroom and nothing being done about it.''

  Then we began to talk to teachers, principals, and school board 
superintendents. They talked about the lawyers and the complicated 
regulations with which they deal. It is really unacceptable. Teachers 
who have been trained with masters' degrees in special education to 
deal with these children have also overwhelmingly told me this is not a 
healthy thing, that we are telling special children with physical 
disabilities, or disabilities as defined by the Federal law, that they 
don't have to adhere to the same standards other children do. Right in 
the classroom, we create, by Federal law, two separate standards for 
American citizens. You can say to one child: You can't do this, you are 
out of school. But we can say to another children: You can do it, and 
you are only out 10 days, or maybe 45 days, and then you are back in 
the classroom. That is not defensible.
  I want to share some of the letters I began to receive from teachers 
who care about this problem and want me and you and the Members of this 
Congress to do something about it. I believe we can. I hope it will be 
part of the debate this year in our political arena. Maybe we can make 
some progress with it.
  First, I want to mention that when Congress passed the IDEA--
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act--in 1975, we committed to 
pay the States, whom we were requiring to do it--we require these 
States to meet these standards. We agreed to pay 40 percent of the 
cost. We have never paid more than 15 percent of the cost. It has been 
below 10 percent in most years. We had testimony in the Health, 
Education, and Labor Committee, of which I am a member, from a 
superintendent in Vermont who testified to our committee that 20 
percent of the cost of the school system in his county is for special 
education children. This is a major factor in education today. Let me 
share some stories with you about this.
  An experienced educator in Alabama shared these thoughts with me in a 
letter:

       We have a student who is classified emotionally conflicted, 
     learning disabled, and who has attention deficit disorder. 
     While this student has been enrolled, students, teachers, and 
     staff have been verbally threatened with physical harm. Fits 
     of anger, fighting, and outbursts of verbal abuse have been 
     commonplace. Parents and students have expressed concern over 
     the safety of their children due to the behavior of this 
     young man. Teachers have also become extremely apprehensive 
     toward the presence of the student due to his explosive 
     behavior. His misbehavior has escalated to the point that the 
     instructional process of the entire school has been 
     jeopardized.

  Here is another one:

       I have taught for 25 years. I plan to continue teaching, 
     but the problems with discipline are getting out of hand. We 
     are not allowed to discipline certain students. Any student 
     labeled as ``special needs'' must be accommodated, not 
     disciplined. A student recently brought a gun to my school. 
     He made threats to students and teachers which he claims were 
     jokes. I was one of those teachers. This student has been 
     disruptive and belligerent since I first encountered him in 
     the ninth grade. Now, he is a senior. After bringing a gun to 
     school, he was given another ``second chance.'' He should 
     have been expelled. What is his handicap? He has a problem 
     with mathematics. While this may be an extreme situation, it 
     is not isolated.

  Still reading from the letter:

       Teachers are told to handle discipline in the classroom. 
     The Government has taken most of the teachers' rights away; 
     our hands are tied.

  This is a letter from a young teacher in a small town of about 25,000 
in Alabama. This is a story by which I think anybody would be moved:

       As a special educator of six years, I consider myself ``on 
     the front lines'' of the ongoing battles that take place on a 
     daily basis in our Nation's schools. I strongly believe that 
     part of the ``ammunition'' that fuels these struggles are 
     the ``right'' guaranteed to certain individuals by IDEA 
     '97. The law, though well intentioned, has become one of 
     the single greatest obstacles that educators face in our 
     fight to provide all of our children with a quality 
     education delivered in a safe environment. There are many 
     examples that I can offer first hand. However, let me 
     reiterate that I am a special educator. I have dedicated 
     my life to helping children with special needs. It is my 
     job to study and know the abilities and limitations of 
     such children. I have a bachelor's degree in psychology, a 
     masters degree in special education and a Ph.D. in good 
     old common sense. No where in my educational process have 
     I been taught a certain few ``disabled'' students should 
     have a ``right'' to endanger the right to an education of 
     all other disabled and non-disabled children. It's non-
     sense; it's wrong; it's dangerous; and it must be stopped.
       There is no telling how many instructional hours are lost 
     by teachers in dealing with behavior problems. In times of an 
     increasingly competitive global society it is no wonder 
     American students fall short. Certain children are allowed to 
     remain in the classroom robbing the other children of hours 
     that can never be replaced.
       There is no need to extend the school day. There is no need 
     to extend the school year. If politicians would just make it 
     possible for educators to take back the time that is lost on 
     a daily basis to certain individuals there is no doubt we 
     would have a better educated students.
       It is even more frustrating when it is a special education 
     child who knows and boasts ``they can't do anything to me'' 
     and he is placed back in the classroom to disrupt it day 
     after day, week after week.
       It is clear that IDEA '97 not only undermines the 
     educational process it also undermines the authority of 
     educators. In a time when our profession is being called upon 
     to protect our children from  increasingly dangerous sources 
     our credibility is being stripped from us.
       I am sure you have heard the saying: The teachers are 
     scared of the principals, the principals are scared of the 
     superintendents, the superintendents are scared of the 
     parents, the parents are scared of the children, and the 
     children are scared of no one. And why should they be?
       I have experienced the ramifications of the ``new and 
     improved'' law first hand. I had one child attempt to assault 
     me--he had been successful with two other teachers. He was 
     suspended for one day. I had another child make sexual 
     gestures to me in front of the entire class. Despite the fact 
     that every child in my class and a majority of the children 
     in the school knew of it, I was told by my assistant 
     principal that nothing could be done because ``these special 
     ed kids have rights.''
       I literally got in my car to leave that day, but my 
     financial obligations to my family and my moral 
     responsibilities to the children I had in my class kept me 
     there.
       The particular child I spoke about frequently made vulgar 
     comments and threats to my girls in my class on every 
     opportunity he had when there was no adult present. 
     Fortunately, the girls, also special ed, could talk to me 
     about it. Unfortunately, they had to put up with it because 
     ``nothing could be done.''
       I know of a learning disabled child who cut a girl in a 
     fight. The learning disabled child and her parents then 
     attempted to sue the school system because the child was 
     burned when she grabbed a coffee pot to break it over the 
     other child's head. I know of another specific incident where 
     three children brought firearms to school. The two 
     ``regular'' children where expelled. The special education 
     student was back to school the following week.
       I fully expect that you and your colleagues in Washington 
     will do what it takes to take our schools back from this 
     small group of children who feel it is their right to 
     endanger the education of every other child in school. As my 
     grandmother said, ``right is right and wrong is wrong'' and 
     to enable this to continue is just wrong.

  She does have a right to expect Members of this Congress to confront 
this issue and not allow it to continue.
  This is a letter from a town in Alabama with a population of 20,000, 
or so, from another special education teacher.

       As a special educator teacher for 27 years, may I applaud 
     your efforts to make special education students as 
     accountable as any other student for any behavior they 
     exhibit while in school. I fully support the idea that just 
     because they are students in need of special education 
     services that it in no way diminishes their ability to tell 
     right from wrong. When teachers and administrators cannot 
     provide some type of appropriate

[[Page S3574]]

     punishment, then the students are taught that their behavior 
     has no consequences. Just the other day, we had a student, 
     who had been offered detention to avoid mission school time, 
     he responded that they could just go ahead and suspend him 
     because he was not going to come to school on Saturday and 
     that it was not going to hurt his grades because ``he'' was 
     allowed to make up all the work. When students find out about 
     this ``loophole'' then they often feel they have free reign 
     to do or say whatever they feel and that there is nothing 
     that anyone can do.

  He is correct about that. This is a Federal law. We provide 7 percent 
of the cost of education in America. But we don't hesitate to mandate 
these kinds of rules in every school system in the country.

       There federal rules often make teaching very difficult and 
     it penalizes the students who come to school to try and 
     improve themselves.

  He is teaching a class of special education students, and wants all 
of them to learn. Many of them are there trying to learn, and they find 
it more difficult because of these rules.

       I feel that for the best interest of the students and of 
     the entire education population, changes in this policy must 
     take place.

  Mr. President. I don't want to disrupt the system. But I have some 
more comments that I am prepared to make.
  This is a letter from a small town in Alabama.

       Due to the federal rules and the situation they create, I 
     cannot spend time in my class discussing a lesson. I do not 
     do something to tantalize the students, they become 
     disruptive. I can no longer simply explain a concept. I now 
     must spend over half my time disciplining the disruptive 
     students. I am no longer a teacher, I am a threatened and 
     battered baby-sitter who is not allowed to do her job. Give 
     us back our classrooms and our schools. Give the teacher the 
     right to have these disruptive students removed. Please help 
     us.

  This is a letter from an assistant principal.

       I am an assistant principal in Alabama. I taught middle 
     school before taking this administrative position. As a 
     teacher I saw a ``small picture'' of the problem, as an 
     administrator I see a much ``larger picture''. You have 
     chosen a much needed, but difficult battle. Most of the 
     special education students are wonderful (emphasis added) 
     unfortunately, a few are literally destroying the public 
     education process in our country. We are teaching them that 
     they have excuses not to follow rules or obey laws, then we 
     act shocked when violence occurs. Now, perhaps more than ever 
     in our history, we need to teach our children right from 
     wrong and that there will be consequences for their actions. 
     Instead we develop more and more excuses for unacceptable, 
     sometimes criminal behavior. Thank you for anything you can 
     do to help save our children, as well as our country's 
     future.
  I have a letter from a student in a good school system in Alabama.

       I would like to let you know I agree with changing the 
     section on IDEA law. I am in high school and I know how 
     difficult it is for you to learn if there is disruption in 
     the classroom. I think if there is a student who does not 
     want to learn, they should be put in an alternative school or 
     separate class.

  Amen, young student. I agree.
  Another student from an average town in Alabama.

       I'm seeing more and more teachers getting out of education 
     because of the ridiculous lawsuits by special education 
     students.

  We are losing good teachers today in America. If you check around, 
one of the biggest reasons is frustration over their inability to 
maintain discipline in the classroom. Talk to them about it. In most 
schools, that is a real problem. It is hurting public education. These 
laws don't apply to private schools. Teachers in private schools don't 
have these problems and are able to be more effective in creating a 
learning atmosphere. In a way, it hurts our ability to maintain public 
education as a competitive enterprise. We need to make sure what we do 
in Congress does not make it more difficult for our teachers to teach. 
First, do no harm.
  The letter continues,

       We have been told to give the parents whatever they want.

  They have individual education plans for each student. A lot of 
times, that is very helpful. But they have become almost contracts with 
the parents, and schools have to obey them to the letter of the law. 
There are frequently lawsuits over whether the school is following the 
IEP, the individual education plan. It is sad.

       We have been told if they sue us we are going to lose. 
     Because of this, special education students are suffering and 
     so are those students around them. They can disrupt class at 
     will and take away from the education of the majority of the 
     students. Often they do less, and even no work, and we are 
     told to pass them anyway.

  Then he makes an interesting point:

       When these students leave school and enter the real world, 
     they will not have things given to them as they do in school. 
     They will not be prepared to function as a regular citizen 
     should be. As a parent, I fear for my son's safety in school. 
     He has already had one confrontation with a special needs 
     child. The disabled student assaulted my child. In self-
     defense, my son hit the student back. The student was known 
     to get into fights. My son was hauled off to the police 
     station. His grades suffered. The special ed student could go 
     on repeatedly assaulting, with very little consequence. As 
     you can see, this is both an emotional and professional issue 
     for me. I am glad you are aware of the large problem our 
     educational system is having. I hope something can be done 
     before it gets worse. We will see the repercussions for years 
     to come if we don't change this system.

  Another letter from a teacher:

       I have over 30 years experience as a teacher, principal, 
     Federal program coordinator, and school superintendent. I am 
     greatly concerned about the future of public education in 
     this country. IDEA has given local superintendents grief 
     beyond description. First, in 1975, the law was first passed, 
     Congress promised to pick up 40 percent of the cost to 
     operate the program, and according to figures I have seen, 10 
     percent has been the norm since then. Second, this has made 
     every system fair game, with litigation costs consuming more 
     than education dollars. While our system is small, we have 
     had to deal with a number of weapons cases in the last few 
     years. Two of the cases students were caught with weapons 
     they admit they accidentally left in their vehicles coming to 
     school grounds from target shooting. The first boy was 
     expelled 1 year. He never returned to school to graduate. 
     According to him, the situation was just too embarrassing. 
     Although the second boy was in the exact same position as 
     the first, having accidentally left the weapon in his car, 
     instantly we were told he was a special education student 
     and has an IEP. He was then assigned to an alternative 
     school for 45 days and is now back in our school. Both of 
     these young men were not troublemakers at school. Senator, 
     it is impossible to explain to the family of the first 
     student that their son was deserving of more punishment. 
     Think about that.
       This family is now bitter toward me and toward the American 
     system because they, in grave error, believe that all 
     Americans have the same legal right and they were unaware 
     that Congress now decides what rights we are entitled to hold 
     as American citizens. As said in ``Animal Farm'': All are 
     equal, but some are more equal than others.
       The second student's handicap does not prevent him from 
     knowing right from wrong. I'm sorry that I'm old fashioned 
     and believe we should be teaching all students to be 
     responsible for their behavior. We should be helping them 
     develop good decisionmaking skills, not telling them that you 
     are not responsible for your behavior and that there will be 
     no consequences, or minimal consequences, regardless of your 
     behavior.
       I became a teacher in 1965 and I do not remember hearing of 
     gun shootings prior to 1975 when Congress began telling ten 
     percent of our students you are not responsible.

  I think these teachers make a point. It is a matter we need to give 
careful consideration to, not overreact, not undermine the great 
principles of the Disabilities Act Program. But at the same time, we 
need to say that a child is not allowed to commit crimes, to disrupt 
classroom, to curse teachers, principals and students, and abuse them 
and do so with impunity.
  I thank the Chair for the time and yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Collins). The Senator from Wyoming is 
recognized.
  Mr. THOMAS. How much time is left?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has until 3 o'clock.
  Mr. THOMAS. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Alabama for the 
great job of expressing the feelings the teachers and students have 
with respect to what we are doing.
  We have had an interesting week of debate. A number of things, of 
course, have helped define where we are and the direction we will take. 
One of the quotes from the other side of the aisle is the reason we 
have title I is because we decided in 1965 the needs of disadvantaged 
children were not being addressed.
  Madam President, 35 years later, we find once again, the needs of 
poor kids are not being addressed--this time, by those who defend the 
status quo, the means of trapping another generation.
  A Wall Street Journal editorial indicates that this is an effort to 
restrict the States from making the decisions. Again, one of the 
comments made

[[Page S3575]]

about it was the GOP plan allows a blank check for Governors who will 
see to it that the neediest and the poorest children will not benefit 
from the money.
  This defines rather well where we are in this debate. Some of the 
facts seem to be different than what is being talked about. So $120 
billion later, poor kids still lag behind in reading. The percentage of 
those reading below basic level at the 12th grade is still 40 percent. 
The percentage of those writing below basic level in title I is 38 
percent in the 12th grade after $120 billion and 35 years of 
expenditures under this program.
  We are talking about returning some of the decisionmaking to parents, 
to local leaders, sending dollars to the classroom rather than having 
them spent here, giving families greater educational choices, 
supporting and encouraging exceptional teachers, focusing on basic 
academics.
  I think, if nothing more, we have defined very clearly where our 
priorities lie in terms of this body. I think we have a great 
opportunity to make some changes to bring about the results in 
education that all Members seek.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent I might have 
4 minutes to speak about Mike Epstein, who passed away on Saturday.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection to the request of the 
Senator from Minnesota?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.

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