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106th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 106-386
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL ACT (STRAIGHT A's ACT)
October 15, 1999.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Goodling, from the Committee on Education and the Workforce,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
SUPPLEMENTAL, MINORITY AND ADDITIONAL VIEWS
[To accompany H.R. 2300]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Education and the Workforce, to whom was
referred the bill (H.R. 2300) to allow a State to combine
certain funds to improve the academic achievement of all its
students, having considered the same, report favorably thereon
with an amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Academic Achievement for All Act
(Straight A's Act)''.
SEC. 2. PURPOSE.
The purpose of this Act is to create options for States and
(1) to improve the academic achievement of all students, and
to focus the resources of the Federal Government upon such
(2) to improve teacher quality and subject matter mastery,
especially in math, reading, and science;
(3) to empower parents and schools to effectively address the
needs of their children and students;
(4) to give States and communities maximum freedom in
determining how to boost academic achievement and implement
(5) to eliminate Federal barriers to implementing effective
State and local education programs;
(6) to hold States and communities accountable for boosting
the academic achievement of all students, especially
disadvantaged children; and
(7) to narrow achievement gaps between the lowest and highest
performing groups of students so that no child is left behind.
SEC. 3. PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT.
(a) Program Authorized.--A State may, at its option, execute a
performance agreement with the Secretary under which the provisions of
law described in section 4(a) shall not apply to such State except as
otherwise provided in this Act.
(b) Local Input.--States shall provide parents, teachers, and local
schools and districts notice and opportunity to comment on any proposed
performance agreement prior to submission to the Secretary as provided
under general State law notice and comment provisions.
(c) Approval of Performance Agreement.--A performance agreement
submitted to the Secretary under this section shall be considered as
approved by the Secretary within 60 days after receipt of the
performance agreement unless the Secretary provides a written
determination to the State that the performance agreement fails to
satisfy the requirements of this Act before the expiration of the 60-
(d) Terms of Performance Agreement.--Each performance agreement
executed pursuant to this Act shall include the following provisions:
(1) Term.--A statement that the term of the performance
agreement shall be 5 years.
(2) Application of program requirements.--A statement that no
program requirements of any program included by the State in
the performance agreement shall apply, except as otherwise
provided in this Act.
(3) List.--A list provided by the State of the programs that
it wishes to include in the performance agreement.
(4) Use of funds to improve student achievement.--A 5-year
plan describing how the State intends to combine and use the
funds from programs included in the performance agreement to
advance the education priorities of the State, improve student
achievement, and narrow achievement gaps between students.
(5) Accountability requirements.--If a State includes any
part of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
of 1965 in its performance agreement, the State shall include a
certification that the State has done the following:
(A)(i) developed and implemented the challenging
State content standards, challenging State student
performance standards, and aligned assessments
described in section 1111(b) of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965; or
(ii) developed and implemented a system to measure
the degree of change from one school year to the next
in student performance;
(B) developed and is implementing a statewide
accountability system that has been or is reasonably
expected to be effective in substantially increasing
the numbers and percentages of all students who meet
the State's proficient and advanced levels of
(C) established a system under which assessment
information may be disaggregated within each State,
local educational agency, and school by each major
racial and ethnic group, gender, English proficiency
status, migrant status, and by economically
disadvantaged students as compared to students who are
not economically disadvantaged (except that such
disaggregation shall not be required in cases in which
the number of students in any such group is
insufficient to yield statistically reliable
information or would reveal the identity of an
(D) established specific, measurable, numerical
performance objectives for student achievement,
including a definition of performance considered to be
proficient by the State on the academic assessment
instruments described under subparagraph (A);
(E) developed and implemented a statewide system for
holding its local educational agencies and schools
accountable for student performance that includes--
(i) a procedure for identifying local
educational agencies and schools in need of
improvement, using the assessments described
under subparagraph (A);
(ii) assisting and building capacity in local
educational agencies and schools identified as
in need of improvement to improve teaching and
(iii) implementing corrective actions after
no more than 3 years if the assistance and
capacity building under clause (ii) is not
(6) Performance goals.--
(A) Student academic achievement.--Each State shall
establish annual student performance goals for the 5-
year term of the performance agreement that, at a
(i) establish a single high standard of
performance for all students;
(ii) take into account the progress of
students from every local educational agency
and school in the State;
(iii) are based primarily on the State's
challenging content and student performance
standards and assessments described under
(iv) include specific annual improvement
goals in each subject and grade included in the
State assessment system, which must include, at
a minimum, reading or language arts and math;
(v) compares the proportions of students at
the ``basic'', ``proficient'', and ``advanced''
levels of performance (as defined by the State)
with the proportions of students at each of the
3 levels in the same grade in the previous
(vi) includes annual numerical goals for
improving the performance of each group
specified in paragraph (5)(C) and narrowing
gaps in performance between the highest and
lowest performing students in accordance with
section 10(b); and
(vii) requires all students in the State to
make substantial gains in achievement.
(B) Additional indicators of performance.--A State
may identify in the performance agreement any
additional indicators of performance such as
graduation, dropout, or attendance rates.
(C) Consistency of performance measures.--A State
shall maintain, at a minimum, the same level of
challenging State student performance standards and
assessments throughout the term of the performance
(7) Fiscal responsibilities.--An assurance that the State
will use fiscal control and fund accounting procedures that
will ensure proper disbursement of, and accounting for, Federal
funds paid to the State under this Act.
(8) Civil rights.--An assurance that the State will meet the
requirements of applicable Federal civil rights laws.
(9) Private school participation.--
(A) Equitable participation.--An assurance that the
State will provide for the equitable participation of
students and professional staff in private schools.
(B) Application of bypass.--An assurance that
sections 14504, 14505, and 14506 of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 8894, 8895,
and 8896) shall apply to all services and assistance
provided under this Act in the same manner as they
apply to services and assistance provided in accordance
with section 14503 of such Act.
(10) State financial participation.--An assurance that the
State will not reduce the level of spending of State funds for
elementary and secondary education during the term of the
(11) Annual report.--An assurance that not later than 1 year
after the execution of the performance agreement, and annually
thereafter, each State shall disseminate widely to parents and
the general public, submit to the Secretary, distribute to
print and broadcast media, and post on the Internet, a report
(A) student academic performance data, disaggregated
as provided in paragraph (5)(C); and
(B) a detailed description of how the State has used
Federal funds to improve student academic performance
and reduce achievement gaps to meet the terms of the
(e) Special Rule.--If a State does not include any part of title I of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in its performance
agreement, the State shall--
(1) certify that it has developed a system to measure the
academic performance of all students; and
(2) establish challenging academic performance goals for such
other programs using academic assessment data described in
(f) Amendment to Performance Agreement.--A State may submit an
amendment to the performance agreement to the Secretary under the
(1) Reduce scope of performance agreement.--Not later than 1
year after the execution of the performance agreement, a State
may amend the performance agreement through a request to
withdraw a program from such agreement. If the Secretary
approves the amendment, the requirements of existing law shall
apply for any program withdrawn from the performance agreement.
(2) Expand scope of performance agreement.--Not later than 1
year after the execution of the performance agreement, a State
may amend its performance agreement to include additional
programs and performance indicators for which it will be held
(3) Approval of amendment.--An amendment submitted to the
Secretary under this subsection shall be considered as approved
by the Secretary within 60 days after receipt of the amendment
unless the Secretary provides a written determination to the
State that the performance agreement if amended by the
amendment would fail to satisfy the requirements of this Act,
before the expiration of the 60-day period.
SEC. 4. ELIGIBLE PROGRAMS.
(a) Eligible Programs.--The provisions of law referred to in section
3(a) except as otherwise provided in subsection (b), are as follows:
(1) Part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(2) Part B of title I of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(3) Part C of title I of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(4) Part D of title I of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(5) Part B of title II of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(6) Section 3132 of title III of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(7) Title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
(8) Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
(9) Section 307 of the Department of Education Appropriation
Act of 1999.
(10) Comprehensive school reform programs as authorized under
section 1502 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965 and described on pages 96-99 of the Joint Explanatory
Statement of the Committee of Conference included in House
Report 105-390 (Conference Report on the Departments of Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act, 1998).
(11) Part C of title VII of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965.
(12) Title III of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.
(13) Sections 115 and 116, and parts B and C of title I of
the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Technical Education Act.
(14) Subtitle B of title VII of the Stewart B. McKinney
Homeless Assistance Act.
(b) Allocations to States.--A State may choose to consolidate funds
from any or all of the programs described in subsection (a) without
regard to the program requirements of the provisions referred to in
such subsection, except that the proportion of funds made available for
national programs and allocations to each State for State and local
use, under such provisions, shall remain in effect unless otherwise
(c) Uses of Funds.--Funds made available under this Act to a State
shall be used for any elementary and secondary educational purposes
permitted by State law of the participating State.
SEC. 5. WITHIN-STATE DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS.
(a) In General.--The distribution of funds from programs included in
a performance agreement from a State to a local educational agency
within the State shall be determined by the Governor of the State and
the State legislature. In a State in which the constitution or State
law designates another individual, entity, or agency to be responsible
for education, the allocation of funds from programs included in the
performance agreement from a State to a local educational agency within
the State shall be determined by that individual, entity, or agency,
inconsultation with the Governor and State Legislature. Nothing in this
section shall be construed to supersede or modify any provision of a
State constitution or State law.
(b) Local Input.--States shall provide parents, teachers, and local
schools and districts notice and opportunity to comment on the proposed
allocation of funds as provided under general State law notice and
(c) Local Hold Harmless of Part A Title 1 Funds.--
(1) In general.--In the case of a State that includes part A
of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965 in the performance agreement, the agreement shall provide
an assurance that each local educational agency shall receive
under the performance agreement an amount equal to or greater
than the amount such agency received under part A of title I of
such Act in the fiscal year preceding the fiscal year in which
the performance agreement is executed.
(2) Proportionate reduction.--If the amount made available to
the State from the Secretary for a fiscal year is insufficient
to pay to each local educational agency the amount made
available under part A of title I of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965 to such agency for the
preceding fiscal year, the State shall reduce the amount each
local educational agency receives by a uniform percentage.
SEC. 6. LOCAL PARTICIPATION.
(a) Nonparticipating State.--
(1) In general.--If a State chooses not to submit a
performance agreement under this Act, any local educational
agency in such State is eligible, at its option, to submit to
the Secretary a performance agreement in accordance with this
(2) Agreement.--The terms of a performance agreement between
an eligible local educational agency and the Secretary shall
specify the programs to be included in the performance
agreement, as agreed upon by the State and the agency, from the
list under section 4(a).
(b) State Approval.--When submitting a performance agreement to the
Secretary, an eligible local educational agency described in subsection
(a) shall provide written documentation from the State in which such
agency is located that it has no objection to the agency's proposal for
a performance agreement.
(1) In general.--Except as provided in this section, and to
the extent applicable, the requirements of this Act shall apply
to an eligible local educational agency that submits a
performance agreement in the same manner as the requirements
apply to a State.
(2) Exceptions.--The following provisions shall not apply to
an eligible local educational agency:
(A) Within state distribution formula not
applicable.--The formula for the allocation of funds
under section 5 shall not apply.
(B) State set aside shall not apply.--The State set
aside for administrative funds in section 7 shall not
SEC. 7. LIMITATIONS ON STATE AND LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY
(a) In General.--Except as otherwise provided under subsection (b), a
State that includes part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act of 1965 in the performance agreement may use not more
than 1 percent of such total amount of funds allocated to such State
under the programs included in the performance agreement for
(b) Exception.--A State that does not include part A of title I of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the performance
agreement may use not more than 3 percent of the total amount of funds
allocated to such State under the programs included in the performance
agreement for administrative purposes.
(c) Local Educational Agency.--A local educational agency
participating in this Act under a performance agreement under section 6
may not use for administrative purposes more than 4 percent of the
total amount of funds allocated to such agency under the programs
included in the performance agreement.
SEC. 8. PERFORMANCE REVIEW.
(a) Mid-Term Performance Review.--If, during the 5 year term of the
performance agreement, student achievement significantly declines for 3
consecutive years in the academic performance categories established in
the performance agreement, the Secretary may, after notice and
opportunity for a hearing, terminate the agreement
(b) Failure To Meet Terms.--If at the end of the 5-year term of the
performance agreement a State has not substantially met the performance
goals submitted in the performance agreement, the Secretary shall,
after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, terminate the
performance agreement and the State shall be required to comply with
the program requirements, in effect at the time of termination, for
each program included in the performance agreement.
(c) Penalty for Failure To Improve Student Performance.--If a State
has made no progress toward achieving its performance goals by the end
of the term of the agreement, the Secretary may reduce funds for State
administrative costs for each program included in the performance
agreement by up to 50 percent for each year of the 2-year period
following the end of the term of the performance agreement.
SEC. 9. RENEWAL OF PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT.
(a) Notification.--A State that wishes to renew its performance
agreement shall notify the Secretary of its renewal request not less
than 6 months prior to the end of the term of the performance
(b) Renewal Requirements.--A State that has met or has substantially
met its performance goals submitted in the performance agreement at the
end of the 5-year term may reapply to the Secretary to renew its
performance agreement for an additional 5-year period. Upon the
completion of the 5-year term of the performance agreement or as soon
thereafter as the State submits data required under the agreement, the
Secretary shall renew, for an additional 5-year term, the performance
agreement of any State that has met or has substantially met its
SEC. 10. ACHIEVEMENT GAP REDUCTION REWARDS.
(a) Closing the Gap Reward Fund.--
(1) In general.--To reward States that make significant
progress in eliminating achievement gaps by raising the
achievement levels of the lowest performing students, the
Secretary shall set aside sufficient funds from the Fund for
the Improvement of Education under part A of title X of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to grant a
reward to States that meet the conditions set forth in
subsection (b) by the end of their 5-year performance
(2) Reward amount.--The amount of the reward referred to in
paragraph (1) shall be not less than 5 percent of funds
allocated to the State during the first year of the performance
agreement for programs included in the agreement.
(b) Conditions of Performance Reward.--Subject to paragraph (3), a
State is eligible to receive a reward under this section as follows:
(1) A State is eligible for such an award if the State
reduces by not less than 25 percent, over the 5-year term of
the performance agreement, the difference between the
percentage of highest and lowest performing groups of students
that meet the State's definition of ``proficient'' as
referenced in section 1111(b)(1)(D)(i)(II) of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
(2) A State is eligible for such an award if a State
increases the proportion of 2 or more groups of students under
section 3(d)(5)(C) that meet State proficiency standards by 25
(3) A State shall receive such an award if the following
requirements are met:
(A) Content areas.--The reduction in the achievement
gap or approvement in achievement shall include not
less than 2 content areas, one of which shall be
mathematics or reading.
(B) Grades tested.--The reduction in the achievement
gap or improvement in achievement shall occur in at
least 2 grade levels.
(c) Rule of Construction.--Student achievement gaps shall not be
considered to have been reduced in circumstances where the average
academic performance of the highest performing quintile of students has
SEC. 11. STRAIGHT A'S PERFORMANCE REPORT.
The Secretary shall make the annual State reports described in
section 3 available to the House Committee on Education and the
Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions not later than 60 days after the Secretary receives the
SEC. 12. APPLICABILITY OF TITLE XIV OF THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY
EDUCATION ACT OF 1965.
To the extent that provisions of title XIV of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965 are inconsistent with this Act, this
Act shall be construed as superseding such provisions.
SEC. 13. APPLICABILITY OF GENERAL EDUCATION PROVISIONS ACT.
To the extent that the provisions of the General Education Provisions
Act are inconsistent with this Act, this Act shall be construed as
superseding such provisions, except where relating to civil rights,
withholdling of funds and enforcement authority, and family educational
and privacy rights.
SEC. 14. APPLICABILITY TO HOME SCHOOLS.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect home schools whether
or not a home school is treated as a private school or home school
under State law.
SEC. 15. GENERAL PROVISIONS REGARDING NON-RECIPIENT, NON-PUBLIC
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage,
or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private,
religious, or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a
private school or home school under State law.
SEC. 16. DEFINITIONS.
For the purpose of this Act:
(1) All students.--The term ``all students'' means all
students attending public schools or charter schools that are
participating in the State's accountability and assessment
(2) All schools.--The term ``all schools'' means all schools
that are participating in the State's accountability and
(3) Local educational agency.--The term ``local educational
agency'' has the same meaning given such term in section 14101
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20
(4) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of
(5) State.--The term ``State'' means each of the 50 States,
the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the
Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
The purpose of H.R. 2300, the ``Academic Achievement for
All Act,'' is to focus federal resources for education on
increasing student performance and narrowing achievement gaps.
It gives States, school districts and schools the option of
receiving additional flexibility in the use of fourteen state-
administered, Federal elementary and secondary education
program funds in exchange for increased accountability for
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a
field hearing on April 19, 1999 in Chicago, Illinois, on
``Chicago Education Reforms and the Importance of Flexibility
in Federal Education Programs.'' The hearing focused on the
Chicago Public School system and its successful reforms which
have produced rising scores, better attendance rates, and
higher graduation numbers. Additionally, the hearing addressed
how Congress can increase the amount of flexibility available
to school districts such as Chicago. The Subcommittee received
testimony from three panels of witnesses. First panel: Speaker
of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert (R-IL).
Second panel: Mr. Paul Vallas, Chief Executive Officer of
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois; and Dr. William
Bennett, Co-director of Empower America, Washington, DC. Third
panel: Dr. Hazel Loucks, Deputy Governor for Education, State
of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois; Dr. Cynthia Barron, Principal,
Jones Magnet High School, Chicago, Illinois; Mr. Glenn McGee,
State Superintendent of Education, State of Illinois,
The Full Committee on Education and the Workforce held a
hearing on May 20, 1999 in Washington, DC. The hearing focused
on issues raised by the Academic Achievement for All proposal
(the Straight A's Act). The Committee received testimony from
Dr. Chester E. Finn Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation, Washington, DC; the Honorable Bret Schunder, Mayor,
Jersey City, New Jersey; Dr. William Moloney, Commissioner of
Education, Colorado Department of Education, Denver, Colorado;
the Honorable Ralph M. Tanner, Kansas State Representative,
District 10, Baldwin City, Kansas; and Ms. Jennifer A.
Marshall, Education Policy Analyst, Family Research Council,
The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families
held a hearing on June 9, 1999, in Washington, DC. The hearing
focused on various accountability policies implemented by
States and school districts over the past decade, how these
systems have helped to improve student achievement, and how
these systems are being implemented in different ways around
the country. The Committee received testimony from two panels
of witnesses. First panel: the Honorable Tommy G. Thompson,
Governor, State of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin; and the
Honorable Frank Brogan, Lieutenant Governor, State of Florida,
Tallahassee, Florida. Second panel: Dr. Susan Sclafani, Chief
of Staff for Education Services, Houston Independent School
District, Houston, Texas; Mr. Andy Plattner, Chairman, A-Plus
Communications, Arlington, Virginia; Dr. Kathryn Jane Massey-
Wilson, Superintendent, West Point Public Schools, West Point,
Virginia; Ms. Stay Boyd, Project Achieve, San Francisco,
California; and Ms. Kati Haycock, Director, Education Trust,
On June 22, 1999, Representative Bill Goodling (R-PA)
introduced H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievements for All Act
(Straight A's Act). The Committee on Education and the
Workforce considered H.R. 2300 with an Amendment in the Nature
of a Substitute in legislative session on October 13, 1999,
during which two amendments were considered on which two roll
call votes were taken. The Committee on Education and the
Workforce with a majority of the Committee present, favorably
reported H.R. 2300, to the House by a vote of 26 to 19, on
October 13, 1999.
The compliance-based Federal role
Since 1965, when Washington embarked on its first major
elementary-secondary education initiative, federal policy has
strongly influenced America's schools. Although education is
generally considered a State responsibility, over the years
Congress has created hundreds of programs to address a myriad
of problems. Today, the federal government pursues its
education agenda through a wide range of programs; over sixty
of them, worth about $14 billion, are included in the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which
was last reauthorized in 1994. While federal dollars make up
only about seven percent of America's total budget for K-12
education, Washington's role is significant when it comes to
setting State and local priorities and determining the tenor
and content of the national conversation about education.\1\
And yet despite that significant role, there is little evidence
that student achievement has increased and achievement gaps
have narrowed as a result. While States and school districts
have sought to comply with Federal requirements, too often
those requirements have had very little to do with improving
student performance. As William Moloney, Superintendent of
Colorado Schools, described it for the Committee earlier this
year, ``ESEA [has] remained as always a neutral phenomena based
on inputs rather than results, more on accounting than
accountability, an entity always more interested in what you
were rather than what you were doing.'' \2\
\1\ Chester Finn, Jr., Marci Kanstoroom, Michael Petrilli,
``Overview: Thirty-Four Years of Dashed Hopes,'' New Directions:
Federal Education Policy in the Twenty-First Century, The Thomas B.
Fordham Foundation, March, 1999.
\2\ Testimony of William Moloney, Superintendent of Colorado
Schools, Committee on Education and the Workforce, May 20, 1999.
Federal programs place bureaucratic and regulatory burdens
on all State and local school districts
After decades of spending billions on federal education
research and evaluation programs, very little is known about
the effectiveness of the scores of federal elementary and
secondary education programs administered by the U.S.
Department of Education.Consequently, Congress lacks adequate
data to determine what really works and what does not.
The largest Federal elementary and secondary education
program, Title I, has been evaluated, but has yet to
demonstrate that it is effectively narrowing achievement.
Today, even though the law requires States to ``turn-around''
low-performing schools, there are nearly 7,000 Title I schools
and about 1,000 school districts that are officially designated
as in need of ``improvement''--that are failing to make
adequate progress. The final report of the Prospects evaluation
of Chapter 1 (later renamed as Title I) found that the program
did not appear to help at-risk students in high-poverty schools
to close their academic achievement gaps with students in low-
poverty schools.\3\ And most recently, early data available
from the evaluation of 1994 reauthorization of Title I does not
yet indicate that the program is more effectively narrowing
achievement gaps. The interim report found that students in the
study performed ``somewhat below national and urban norms,''
and were ``showing somewhat less progress than would be
expected over a full year.'' The proportion of students meeting
the highest proficiency levels just held steady during the two
years of data made available.\4\
\3\ Michael J. Puma, Nancy Karweit, Cristofer Price, Anne Ricciuti,
William Thompson, and Michael Vanden-Kiernan. Prospects: Final Report
on Student Outcomes, Cambridge, MA: Abt Associations, 1997.
\4\ The Longitudinal Evaluation of School Change and Performance in
Title I Schools (LESCP): Interim Report to Congress, U.S. Department of
Education, June, 1999, pgs. xvi-xvii.
Because Federal education programs have historically been
compliance and not performance-based, they generate a large
amount of paperwork and require thousands of bureaucrats to
administer the programs. Some examples of this burden are as
Burdensome Paperwork Requirements: Even after accounting
for recent reductions, the U.S. Department of Education still
requires over 40 million hours worth of paperwork per year--the
equivalent of 19,300 employees working full-time for a year.\5\
\5\ U.S. Department of Education, Annual Performance Plan, FY2000.
Thousands of Federally-funded employees at the State level:
The Department of Education is one of the smallest Federal
agencies. Yet, to administer all the Federal education programs
within the States, there are nearly three times as many
Federally funded employees working in State education agencies,
as there are within the Federal Department of Education itself.
According to GAO, there are about 13,400 FTEs (full-time
equivalents) funded with Federal dollars to administer these
\6\ U.S. General Accounting Office, Education Finance: The Extent
of Federal Funding in State Education Agencies, GAO/HEHS-95-3, October
1995, p. 11.
A 487 Step Discretionary Grant Process: In 1993, Vice-
President Al Gore's National Performance Review discovered that
the Department of Education's discretionary grant process
lasted 26 weeks and took 487 steps from start to finish. It was
not until three years later in 1996 that the Department finally
took steps to begin ``streamlining'' their long and protracted
grant review process, a process that has yet to be completed
and fully implemented. According to the Department, once the
streamlining is fully implemented it will only take an average
of 20 weeks and 216 steps to complete a review.\7\
\7\ U.S. Department of Education Report, ``A Redesigned
Discretionary Grant Process''--Vice President Gore's National
Performance Review 1995. Redesigned process is due to be in place in
The cumulative effect of federally designed programs and
requirements takes its toll at the State and local level. Frank
Brogan, the former Florida Commissioner of Education who is now
Florida's Lieutenant Governor, noted the extent of the command
and control approach of Washington bureaucrats. In testimony on
May 5, 1998, he stated,
In practice, most federal education programs typify
the misguided, one size fits all command and control
approach that we in the States are abandoning. Most
have the requisite focus on inputs like more
regulation, increasing budgets and fixed options and
processes. Conceptualized in Washington, with all good
intentions, federal education programs often get
translated into the growing bureaucratic thicket and
Brogan further noted that in Florida, because of Federal
requirements, there are 297 State employees to oversee and
administer approximately $1 billion in Federal funds. By
contrast, 374 State-funded positions oversee and administer
over $8 billion in State funds. Thus, six times as many people
are required to administer a Federal dollar as a State dollar.
The State of Georgia has also found federal programs to
require a disproportionate number of administrators. Georgia
State Superintendent Linda Schrenko, who spent eighteen years
as a public school teacher and principal, testified about the
excessive administrative requirements of Federal programs. She
noted that about 6.4 percent of the $9.45 billion total
education budget in Georgia (from all sources-Federal, State
and local) in 1996-97 came from the Federal government. In that
same year, the Georgia Department of Education had 322
employees, of whom 93 worked full-time filling out paperwork
and administering the federal programs. In effect, this
amounted to 29 percent of their employees administering the 6.4
percent of funds that came from Washington.
Federal education programs are for the most part one-size-
fits-all solutions to problems that vary widely from state to
state. Every State has different needs and priorities, and the
paperwork and bureaucratic requirements that accompany federal
programs often prevent them from best addressing these issues.
States often have to plan their agendas around prescriptive
federal constraints, as well as overlapping and often
conflicting program requirements. Given that we do not even
have sufficient data demonstrating the effectiveness of Federal
programs, and the burdens necessarily placed on State and local
school districts as a result, the Federal government should
expand flexibility in federal programs. As much as possible it
should defer to the States and local school districts to design
their own programs for ensuring that all children receive a
high quality education, while at the same time making sure that
taxpayers receive their money's worth by ensuring that federal
investments in education improve performance.
Those States and school districts on the cutting edge of
reform, with a proven track record of improving student
achievement, should be granted the most flexibility to educate
theirstudents. If a State has demonstrated that it is
effectively improving student achievement, the Federal government
should empower those efforts, and not require the implementation of
federal one-size-fits all programs. Texas' statewide accountability
system, for example, has produced significant achievement gains. Its
education policy has served as the basis of much of what is new in the
Committee's reauthorization of Title I. It is the Committee's view that
Texas and other States that are producing results should not
necessarily have to implement a Federal program that is in many ways an
imperfect attempt to reproduce their State's own effective education
policy: they should have the option of entering into a performance
based relationship with the Secretary and be freed from constraining
Learning from States and local school districts
H.R. 2300, the Straight A's Act, is based on the principle
that holding States and local school districts accountable for
meeting challenging performance goals, while at the same time
granting them freedom and flexibility to use those funds, will
produce results. This has been demonstrated in States like
Texas and in cites like Chicago, where flexibility to innovate
combined with high standards of achievement have produced
significant gains in achievement. The Committee has heard
testimony from individuals representing these states and cities
who have asked Congress to grant them the freedom to have a
more performance based relationship with the U.S. Department of
Chicago has recently seen tremendous results under a regime
of increased accountability for results and freedom from
certain State mandates and regulations. Flexibility in funding
from the State enabled them to balance the Chicago Public
Schools budget for the last four years and to negotiate two
four-year contracts with their teachers. It has allowed them to
create after-school and summer school programs targeted on
students who are doing poorly in reading and math. With the
flexibility they received, they have been able to expand
preschool programs, create new opportunities for gifted
students who have been difficult to retain within the public
school system. All these changes have benefited their students,
but particularly students from low-income families, students
with poor academic performance, students who don't speak
English, and students with disabilities.
Within the context of this flexibility, Chicago has seen
its test scores rise for three years, across the board, on
standardized testing, the State's tests, and college entrance
exams. Graduation rates are up and dropout rates are down.
Attendance has improved everywhere, and enrollment continues to
rise as people once more choose the public schools. Many of the
problems confronting public education can be solved, as they
are demonstrating in Chicago. According to Chicago Public
Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas in his testimony before the
Committee earlier this year, ``Mayor Daley noted in a speech to
the National Press Club [that] we have more students than the
public school systems of Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Denver,
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Pittsburgh combined. If we can
improve, so can the other urban districts.'' \8\ And according
to Vallas, there is more to be done: ``With the federal
government as a partner, not a puppet master pulling strings,
the Chicago Public Schools can do even more.''
\8\ Testimony of Paul Vallas, Superintendent of Chicago Public
Schools, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on
Education and the Workforce, April 19, 1999.
Superintendent Vallas also expressed his desire for
increased flexibility in their federal funding:
``Simply put, what we want is greater flexibility in
the use of federal funds coupled with greater
accountability for achieving the desired results. We in
Chicago, for example, would be delighted to enter into
a contract with the Department of Education, specifying
what we would achieve with our students, and with
selected groups of students. And we would work
diligently to fulfill--and exceed--the terms of such a
contract. We would be held accountable for the
Narrowing achievement gaps in Texas
The Federal role in education historically has been to
ensure that disadvantaged students--especially poor students
and students from racial minorities--have access to an
excellent education. If we are serious about demanding results,
then we must demand results for the poorest and neediest of our
children, just as we do for all other children.
Currently, Texas is the best State in which to attend
school if you are poor, of limited English proficiency, or
belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. Texas's
accountability system has accelerated the rate of learning for
these groups more than any other system in the country. We
should learn from Texas at the federal level to ensure that no
child is left behind
Texas has also demonstrated how increased flexibility
within the context of increased accountability for performance
can produce achievement gains for disadvantaged students. Using
Ed-Flex, Texas has essentially given its school districts the
flexibility to allocate Title I funds to schools on the basis
of need, not only on the level of poverty with a school. The
testimony \10\ of Madeleine Manigold, the coordinator of State
and Federal waivers for the Texas Education Agency, indicates
that preliminary test results in Texas show that Ed-Flex
schoolwide waivers have been very successful in improving
academic achievement for all populations of students in reading
and mathematics. In order to hold Title I schools and districts
accountable for improving student performance, Texas requires
them make enough gain each year so that in five years 90
percent of all students, and 90 percent of all African
American, Hispanic, Caucasian and economically disadvantaged
students will be passing the State's assessment instruments in
reading and math. For the period 1996-1998, Texas achieved this
goal for all students and all groups of students, including
African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged
\10\ Testimony of Madeleine Draeger Manigold, Coordinator of State
and Federal Waivers, Texas Education Agency, at hearing of Subcommittee
on Early Childhood, Youth and Families on February 25, 1999.
Even more important is the fact that the performance gap is
closing at schools with Ed-Flex Title I schoolwide waivers at
an even greater rate than in the State of Texas as a whole, as
earlier mentioned. Greater flexibility at the school level
appears to be producing results.
In 1998, the number of schools rated ``Exemplary''
increased by 150 percent over the number earning that rating in
1997, and increased by 15-fold over the number earning that
rating in 1994.
In 1998, the number of schools rated
``Recognized'' increased only slightly over the number earning
that rating in 1997, and increased by six fold over the number
earning that rating in 1994.
Among the 39 States that participated in the 1996
NAEP in fourth-grade math, Texas finished in the top 10, along
with States such as Maine, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, which
have far fewer low-income and minority students.
The State's African-American fourth-graders and
Title I fourth-graders scored higher in math, on average, than
their counterparts in every other State, and its Hispanic
children finished sixth.
White fourth-graders in Texas had the highest
average math score in the nation.
Between 1992 and 1996, the percentage of Texas
fourth-graders achieving at or above the NAEP's ``proficient''
level in math rose from 15 to 25 percent far outstripping
improvements nationwide. Similarly, the share of Texas children
scoring below the ``basic'' level fell from 44 to 31 percent
during the same period. In reading, the percentage of Texas
fourth-graders achieving ``at or above proficient'' increased
from 28 to 31 percent from 1992 to 1998. The percent of
students scoring below basic dropped from 43 to 37 percent.
Like every other State, however, Texas still has a broad
racial chasm: In fourth grade math, 53 percent of African-
Americans, and 45 percent of Hispanics scored below the
``basic'' level, compared with 15% of whites. But the gap is
narrowing faster there than in any other State. Texas has
proven that by shining light on how all categories of students
perform, and not just the average, more schools begin to take
the education of poor and minority students more seriously.
Governor Jeb Bush of Florida voiced his support of Straight
A's in a House Budget Committee hearing on September 23, 1999.
He described how his State was considered by independent
sources such as Quality Counts to have standards that are among
the top five States in the nation. As he described it,
States like Florida that are moving toward a truly
accountable, performance-based and child-centered
system should be given regulatory and funding
flexibility to achieve their academic goals. It's time
to move away from the Washington-knows-best model, and
allow States that are willing to meet stringent
performance goals to have more flexibility.
Because the A+Plan's accountability measures are so
potent, I believe that once fully implemented, the
A+Plan may do more good to help low-income children in
low-performing schools in five years than the Title I
program has done in our State in 35 years. Without
legislation like the Straight A's Act, Florida will not
be able to use federal funds to fully support our
reform efforts. But with the Straight A's Act,
Florida's school districts could use federal funds to
support their accountability-driven efforts in the
manner they believe best to address their local
solutions, whether those solutions are more technology,
smaller class sizes, a longer school year, or
. . . I have come here to offer you more
accountability from Florida, in exchange for more
flexibility. We can increase the impact that federal
dollars will have on student learning in our State, if
we are provided with more freedom and less one-size-
fits-all regulations from the federal government.''
Florida is experimenting with the Straight A's concept
within its own State, offering school districts the opportunity
to become ``charter districts''--to receive freedom from
regulations for agreeing to meet certain performance goals.
Ed Flex is not enough to address the flexibility needs of
Earlier this year the House passed H.R. 800, the Education
Flexibility Partnership Act, which was signed into law on April
27, 1999. This bill removed the 12 State limit on participants
in this program, and strengthened accountability. However, Ed-
Flex was only a first step towards granting states the full
range of flexibility options they need. Ed-Flex is designed to
make federal programs work better at the local level in their
current categorical structure by removing specific program
requirements that are barriers to reform at the local level.
For some States, Ed-Flex is sufficient. Others, however, are
ready for additional flexibility and accountability.
Moreover, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office
report last September, Ed-Flex's narrowly structured waivers
``generally do not address school districts' major concerns.''
The report concludes that ``federal flexibility efforts neither
reduce districts' financial obligations nor provide additional
federal dollars''; and, because the flexibility is limited to
specific programs, the districts' ``ability to reduce
administrative effort and streamline procedures is also
Ed-Flex does not allow States to consolidate funds from
different federal programs to use on their unique goals and
priorities. For example, the priority of Arkansas Governor Mike
Huckabee (R) in fiscal year (FY) 2000 is to equalize school
funding. Governor Gray Davis (D) of California is investing in
reading, teacher quality, and school accountability
initiatives. And Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) is championing a
school reform package that offers, among other things,
scholarships to students in Florida's worst-performing schools
toattend a school of their parents' choice. Under the Ed-Flex
program federal funds cannot be combined into a sizeable sum to help
States reach their goals more directly.\11\
\11\ Nina Rees and Kirk Johnson, Ph.D., Why a ``Super'' Ed-Flex
Program is Needed to Boost Academic Achievement, The Heritage
Foundation, March 5, 1999.
Because of the relatively limited flexibility it grants,
Ed-Flex does not include strict accountability measures
requiring federal funds to boost academic achievement. Ed-Flex
States still are required to reach the goals of each individual
program, however redundant those goals may be.
Improving Academic Achievement through Freedom and Accountability
Granting States and localities the flexibility to
consolidate federal funding streams is not without precedent in
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows
States to enter into performance contracts, where States agree
to meet certain environmental targets in exchange for receiving
their grant money in the form of a consolidated grant.
Insular areas are allowed under current law to
receive their federal grants from multiple agencies in one
grant to be used for purposes determined by the insular area.
Schoolwide projects under Title I allow schools to
combine all of their federal dollars for the purpose of
improving the quality of the entire school and increasing
In recent years Congress has allowed States to
submit one consolidated application for most Federal education
funds, and to consolidate administrative set-asides for those
programs at the State and local level.
Learning from welfare reform
Wisconsin's experience with waivers to implement their
welfare program is an example of how States can sometimes more
effectively address important issues when they are given the
flexibility to design the program, while at the same time
subject to high performance standards. Prior to the passage
welfare reform legislation, the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) granted States, like Wisconsin, waivers to
implement large-scale efforts to reduce their welfare caseloads
and find jobs for recipients. Wisconsin demonstrated that it
could more effectively reduce welfare dependency in its State
under their own program, significantly reducing the number of
welfare recipients in the state. Wisconsin was able to
demonstrate what worked, which greatly influenced the welfare
reform legislation. Welfare reform legislation itself is an
example of effectively addressing a problem by granting
flexibility coupled with accountability. The Personal
Responsibility Act of 1996 reduced many of the bureaucratic
strings tied to federal welfare dollars while putting in place
significant accountability requirements and financial
incentives to mobilize state and local bureaucracies to reduce
caseloads and out-of-wedlock birth rates. Even though the
States were granted flexibility in the use of their Federal
dollars, it was important to have financial rewards and
incentives to serve as ``carrots'' since the state and local
bureaucracies had grown so unresponsive to the needs of the
people and unable to reduce dependency on their own.
Creating ``Charter States''
Straight A's is also similar to the concept of charter
schools: grant freedom from regulations and process
requirements in exchange for accountability for producing
results. Under Straight A's, Washington assumes the role of
shareholder, not CEO, of the nation's education enterprise.
Rather than micromanaging the day-to-day uses of federal money,
it lets States manage their schools and dollars as they see fit
in return for an agreed-on return on the federal investment.
Built into H.R.2300 is this strategic shift and important
conceptual breakthrough. The main lever of federal education
policy has been carefully prescribing where Washington's money
goes and what it can be spent on. But very little attention has
been paid to the academic results that money helps make
possible. Although there is much said about ``accountability''
these days in federal programs, when push comes to shove, the
only federal terms and conditions with real teeth--the only
kind that compel State and local officials to take notice and
respond--are those governing the allocation and use of the
money, not whether the children learn more.\12\
\12\ Testimony of Chester Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation, Committee on Education and the Workforce, May 20, 1999.
Flexibility and freedom to use Federal funds
The purpose of H.R. 2300 is to untie the hands of those
States that have their accountability systems in place, in
exchange for required results. It goes beyond Ed-Flex to more
effectively address the flexibility needs of the States. States
have the option of participating in Straight A's or staying
with the current arrangement of separate categorical funding
streams. It does not eliminate any programs. The Elementary and
Secondary Education Act will be reauthorized. States may
include any K-12 State-administered, formula grant program in
their performance agreement.
Participating States are granted two important freedoms:
1. Flexibility to combine funds: States are granted freedom
to combine funds to address State priorities. States or local
school districts may consolidate the funds for each Federal
program included in the performance agreement. States would
have the flexibility to combine some or all of their federal
programs. These funds could be used to augment existing federal
programs, such as Title I, or could work in conjunction with
Statewide reform efforts. States may use these funds to
implement their own education reform plans, as determined by
the Governor and State legislature, in accordance with State
law. The funds may be used for any educational activity
permitted by State law. If Part A of Title I is included,
school districts are held harmless and will continue to
receive, at a minimum, the same amount of dollars as they did
under Title I in FY 2000.
2. Freedom from non-performance related requirements and
regulations: Straight A's de-regulates programs administered by
States and local school districts. It frees States fromprocess
requirements that hinder efforts to spend funds effectively. It
eliminates most of the requirements and regulations that apply to
individual categorical programs.
Straight A's is completely optional
H.R. 2300 provides an option for States that wish to be
able to consolidate separate federal funding streams and more
effectively use them in their State. However, no State is
forced to participate. If a State believes their children are
best served under the current arrangement of categorical
programs, then they are free to stay with those programs. If a
State has a philosophical disagreement they are free not to
participate, and unlike other Federal education programs, it
will continue to receive Federal education dollars. Straight
A's does not change any laws governing existing programs. It is
a way of offering additional flexibility to those States who
have said ``just hold us accountable for the results and free
us from all these bureaucratic requirements.''
Accountability: The performance agreement
A State must submit a performance agreement to the
Secretary to participate in H.R. 2300. Before submitting the
agreement to the Secretary, a State must first provide parents,
teachers, and local schools and districts notice and
opportunity to comment on the proposed agreement.
The Secretary has 60 days after receiving the agreement to
determine whether or not it satisfies the requirements of the
statute. If he does not respond with a written determination
within 60 days, the performance agreement would automatically
Terms of the performance agreement
Performance agreements are five years in length. A State is
required to include information in the performance agreement
submitted to the Secretary that details
1. Which programs it wishes to include in the performance
2. A detailed five-year plan (outlined below) describing
how the State will use the funds included in the agreement to
advance the education priorities of the State, improve student
achievement, and narrow achievement gaps.
Accountability Requirements for States Including Title I in
Their Agreement.--The goal of H.R. 2300 is to as much as
possible align the accountability requirements with what many
States have in place under Title I, rather than develop an
entirely new set of accountability criteria. In order for
States to be able to include Title I in their agreement, H.R.
2300 requires them to be in compliance with current law
controlling the development and implementation of standards and
assessments under Title I. A State must certify in their
performance agreement that they have developed standards and
assessments in accordance with Section 1111(b) of Title I.
States including Title I in their agreement would be required
to include much of the same information required by State plan
requirements in Sec. 1111 of Title I. States also have the
option of not using the tests developed in accordance with
Under current law, States are required to be able to
disaggregate their assessment data. H.R. 2300 requires that
participating States continue to be able to report academic
assessment data so that it takes into account the progress of
all students in the State as a whole, at the school district
level, and at the school building level. In addition, for each
school district and school, a State must be able to report the
performance and progress of students by each major racial and
ethnic group, gender, English proficiency status, migrant
status, disability status, and by economically disadvantaged
status. Such reporting is not required, however, in cases in
which the number of students in any group is insufficient
enough to produce statistically reliable information or would
disclose the identity of individual students.
The justification for this requirement is to ensure that
States are specifically holding local school districts and
schools accountable for improving the achievement of
disadvantaged students. Only looking at averages does not allow
for sufficient accountability to ensure that programs designed
to address the needs of disadvantaged children are effective.
Reporting achievement data by subgroup also allows for school
districts and schools to more accurately measure their
effectiveness, and ensure that no one group of children is left
behind. The experience of Texas, described earlier in this
report, demonstrates how effectively States and schools can
narrow student achievement gaps by ensuring that all groups of
students are meeting proficiency standards. However, it is
important to note that it is the Committee's view that race and
economic status are merely helpful categories to look at in
order to determine the effectiveness of instruction and
educational policies. They are useful for looking at the
performance of groups of students only, and have no bearing on
individual student performance, the value of a particular
student's achievement, or the likelihood that any individual
student will succeed.
States must also demonstrate that they have developed an
accountability system that holds school districts and schools
accountable for improving student performance. Such a system,
like the accountability system in Florida which assigns schools
letter grades based on their performance, should have a
demonstrated track record of improving student achievement, or
should be reasonably expected to be effective based on its
implementation in other places.
Such an accountability system should also include a process
for identifying low performing school districts and schools, as
required under Title I. A State must provide assistance and
resources to ``build'' a school's capacity, which means improve
their overall ability to effectively educate their students and
help them meet high standards. After three years of failing to
improve, the State's accountability system must implement
corrective actions, as defined by the State, to turn around low
performing schools or districts.
Performance Goals.--In exchange for being allowed to
combine federal funding streams and for being relieved of the
individual requirements of such programs, States must set
specific performance goals tomeet by the end of the 5-year
agreement. These goals must be set in terms of annual goals, which
would be reported to the Secretary on an annual basis.
The performance goals must reflect high standards
for all students to ensure that all children attending public
schools and charter schools are expected to meet high standards
and make substantial gains in academic achievement. No child
should be ``written-off'' merely because they are poor or have
a difficult family background. All children should be expected
They must take into account the progress of all
public school districts and schools, including charter schools
In order to measure student performance gains as
objectively as possible, States should measure performance in
terms of percentage of students meeting performance standards
such as basic, proficient and advanced. These categories are
defined by the State, and are the same as required under
In order to narrow achievement gaps and improve
overall achievement, specific numerical goals should be set for
each group of students for which a State reports its
achievement test scores. This does not mean that a State must
set different standards for each group, and in fact they should
not. Instead, a State should take into consideration the
performance of each group of students at the beginning of the
term of the agreement and set specific numerical goals for each
to ensure that they are making substantial progress towards
meeting State proficiency standards. All students should be
expected to meet State standards for proficiency, but each
group will have different amounts of progress to in order to
meet proficiency standards.
Performance goals must be set for all State
assessments and for all grades in which they are administered.
In order to include Title I in the performance agreement,
States must, at least administer statewide assessments in
reading and math.
Performance gains must be substantial. The purpose
of H.R. 2300 is to free up States to be held accountable for
improving the academic achievement of all of their students,
and at a faster rate than they would under current law.
States must set goals to reduce achievement gaps
between the lowest and highest performing groups of students,
without lowering the performance of the highest achieving
Other Indicators of Performance.--States have the freedom
to set other goals to demonstrate performance, such as
graduation and attendance rates, in addition to assessment
data. A State would have the incentive to set performance goals
beyond what is required to provide additional evidence of the
State's improvement in achievement. The Secretary would take
those goals into consideration when a State renews its
performance agreement and must demonstrate that it has made
substantial progress toward meeting its goals.
Performance Goals for a State or Locality that Does Not
Include Title I in its Performance Agreement.--If a State does
not include any part of Title I in its agreement, it is not
required to meet the detailed performance goal provisions. This
is because non-Title I programs are much smaller in size, and
in their current form have a more general educational focus and
their funds are not targeted for purposes of improving the
achievement of disadvantaged students in the way that Title I
funds are targeted. Therefore, the only parameters for the
performance goals are that they are set in terms of
improvements in academic achievement on Statewide assessments.
Even though a State would have the freedom to use these funds
for technology, or to implement a program to reduce drug use,
the effectiveness of these funds should be measured in terms of
academic achievement. States would be required to report on the
use and effectiveness of these funds in their annual report.
Annual Report.--A State must annually report to parents and
the general public the progress it has made towards meeting its
performance goals, and how it spent Federal funds to improve
academic achievement and narrow achievement gaps. In addition,
it must submit this information to the Secretary. The Secretary
must make these reports available to Congress.
Fiscal Requirements: Maintenance of Effort, Audits.--A
State must provide assurances that it will not reduce its level
of education spending during the term of the agreement. In
addition, it must demonstrate that it will use standard
procedures for accounting for the use of Federal funds under
Straight A's accountability for Title I dollars compared
with current law
Unlike current law under Title I, Straight A's is a
performance agreement, not a compliance agreement. Straight A's
requires States to set performance goals, and their flexibility
is contingent on improving student performance. Under current
law, States are in compliance if they follow the process rules
and requirements and submit paperwork on time. States continue
to receive their federal dollars year after year even if they
fail to improve student achievement. Annual reports sent to the
Secretary under current law contain lot of statistics about how
many children are in schools receiving Title I dollars, but
nothing about overall achievement gains as a result of federal
dollars. States opting for Straight A's would be more fully
accountable to their taxpayers, parents and students, and would
have a more difficult time blaming failure on federal rules and
If a State includes Title I in their agreement, Straight
A's requires States to set goals and measure their progress in
terms of whether the highest and lowest performing groups of
students improve. Under current law, the unmet needs of
disadvantaged children are often hidden by statewide averages.
In addition, under H.R. 2300 States would be free to target all
of their federal dollars to improve the achievement of the
neediest children. States could increase spending on
disadvantaged students by 70 percent on average.
Under Straight A's, States have the incentive to perform or
risk having their performance agreement terminated and losing
administrative funds. Straight A's also contains the only
reward program that rewards States with federal dollars for
improving student achievement and narrowing achievement gaps,
much like the financial incentives offered to states under
Local school district performance agreements
A school district in a State that chooses not to
participate in Straight A's is eligible to submit a performance
agreement to the Secretary under H.R. 2300. The Committee's
view is that it is important to provide this option so that
school districts are not prevented from having access to a
higher level of flexibility in exchange for additional
accountability. Many large urban centers have as many students
as a small State, and have the ability to operate an effective
accountability system and produce the expected performance
gains required under Straight A's.
The Committee heard testimony from representatives from
large cities such as Chicago and Jersey City who requested the
flexibility to exercise this option. For example, Brett
Shundler, the Mayor of Jersey City, testified before the
Committee on May 20, 1999, stating that:
The sixty programs comprising the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act are well intentioned. However,
many of them have little to do with the reality of
urban classrooms. I would . . . strongly recommend that
you give the option of the Straight A's Act flexibility
to large school districts in any States which do not
choose to participate. The problems and needs of a
large urban district can be quite different and are
even at odds with those of the surrounding State.
School districts may only submit its own performance
agreement if its State does not object. The Committee's view is
that in this instance the entity granted the authority to
administer education programs in the State would make this
determination. It is important that a State not object because
the allocation of funds from many of the programs that are
eligible to be included under Straight A's, in many instances,
is determined by the State. In addition, Straight A's is not
intended as a means by which school districts can opt out of
Statewide academic priorities and accountability systems.
Limits on administrative expenses
Participating local educational agencies would be prevented
from spending more than four percent of funds allocated to them
under programs included in their performance agreement on
Allocation and use of Federal funds
Under Straight A's, funds from any eligible program may be
combined and used for any elementary and secondary educational
purpose permitted under State law.
H.R. 2300 does not affect the amount of money the State
receives from the Federal government for education.
The total amount of funds a State receives under Straight
A's is the same as what the State would have otherwise received
under the categorical programs. The allocation formulas remain
the same. Eligible programs comprise the K-12 formula-grant,
State-administered Federal education programs: Title I,
Eisenhower, Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, Safe and Drug
Free Schools, Emergency Immigrant Education Act, McKinney
Education Homeless Assistance Act, Title VI block grant, Class
Size Reduction, Goals 2000, and Perkins Vocational and
Technical Education Act. It does not include the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Under H.R. 2300 school districts will not lose Title I part
If Title I, Part A is included by a State, each school
district in the State would receive at least as much money as
they received in the preceding fiscal year under part A of
Allocations to districts and use of non-Title I funds under
the performance agreement
In general, the allocation and use of funds is determined
by the Governor and the State legislature. However, if such an
arrangement violates State constitution or State law because it
has designated another entity to be responsible for education,
the entity with the responsibility for education shall make
this determination, in consultation with the Governor and the
state legislature, insofar as this does not override state law
or its constitution. States are also required to provide
parents, teachers and local schools with an opportunity to
comment on the proposed allocation of funds.
Limitations on administrative expenditures
If a State includes Part A of Title I, it may spend up to
one percent on administration. This is so that States may not
spend any more for administration under Straight A's than they
are allowed under current law. If it does not include Title I
Part A, it may spend up to three percent. The percentage
allowed for administrative purposes is larger in this case
because of the smaller amount of funds involved. Also, non-
Title programs for the most part allow about five percent to be
used for administrative purposes at the state level. Local
educational agencies that submit performance agreements may
spend up to four percent on administration, which corresponds
with the amount LEAs may spend for administrative purposes
under the Committee reported version of HR 2, the Student
Results Act of 1999, which reauthorizes Title I. The amount is
the same whether or not an LEA includes Title I. This is
because apart from the Committee-passed reauthorization, under
current law there is no limits on administrative costs at the
local level and no precedent to take into consideration.
Improving achievement through rewards and penalties
ESEA has failed in largely because dollars continue to flow
to States the same way whether or not a state improves student
achievement. Straight A's provides incentives to improve
achievement by financially rewarding States that improve
achievement. No such reward program exists in current for
federal education funds.
Incentives and Rewards
If, after five years a State accomplishes one of the
following, a State may receive a reward equal to at least five
percent of its total program funds for the first year of the
Narrows the achievement gap between its highest
and lowest performing students by 25 percent or more, in at
least two grades and content areas, including reading or math;
Increases the proportion of two or more groups of
students that meet State proficiency standards by 25 percent,
in at least two grades and content areas, including reading or
Funds for the rewards will come from the Fund for the
Improvement of Education. The Secretary should set aside
sufficient funds in advance in order to fully fund rewards
under this provision, and the Appropriations Committees should
take into consideration this reward program when appropriating
funds for the Fund for the Improvement of Education in Title X
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A new program is
not created, nor is new money necessary to fund this provision.
Performance Review and Penalties
Mid-term performance review.--If student academic
performance in a State declines for three consecutive years, in
the performance categories established in the performance
agreement, the Secretary may terminate the charter after notice
and an opportunity for a hearing.
Loss of eligibility.--If a State does not meet or
substantially meet its performance goals at the end of the
five-year agreement, it must revert to categorical funding
streams in effect and the accompanying regulations and
requirements. A State should be allowed to continue if it has
made solid and substantial progress towards meeting those
goals--90 percent or higher. States should be encouraged to set
ambitious goals for the term.
Loss of administrative funds.--If a State makes no progress
towards meeting its performance goals, the Secretary may reduce
its administrative set-asides by as much as 50 percent for two
years following the State's reversion to categorical funding
streams. This provision is similar to provisions under current
law which permit the Secretary to withhold administrative
funds. However, the percentage allowed under Straight A's is
significantly higher and is not optional.
Preserving important protections under current law
Federal civil rights protections remain in effect
States must include in their agreement an assurance that
Federal civil rights laws will be enforced, even though civil
rights requirements cannot be waived. Civil rights laws are
separate, independent freestanding statutes and not part of the
Federal elementary and secondary education programs to which
Straight A's applies. However, the Committee wished to address
this specifically to alleviate any concern that Straight A's
could in some way be used to subvert federal civil rights
Private school participation
States must include in their agreement an assurance that it
will ensure the equitable participation of students and
professional staff in private schools. The bypass and complaint
provisions in sections 14504-14506 also apply to a State's use
of funds under Straight A's. These sections provide a statutory
remedy for situations in which a State fails to live up to its
assurance to provide for the equitable participation of
students and professional staff.
Home Schools and non-recipient, non-public schools
As provided under current law, home schools are not
affected by this Act, regardless of how home schools are
defined under State law. No Federal control over any aspect of
private, religious or home schools is authorized by this act.
General Education Provisions Act Protections
The provisions of the General Education Provisions Act
(GEPA) that are inconsistent with the intent and requirements
of H.R. 2300 are superceded by H.R. 2300. However, provisions
in GEPA affecting civil rights, enforcement authority and
withholding of funds for fiscal accountability purposes, and
family educational and privacy protections are not in any way
superceded by Straight A's.
The kind of accountability in Straight A's has worked well
in cities and States around the nation. Unlike many recent
attempts to put more accountability requirements into federal
programs, such as Title I, accountability in H.R. 2300 has been
coupled with fiscal and legal autonomy and flexibility, which
allows reforms to be implemented quickly and efficiently at the
State and local level.
Straight A's has the potential of serving as the catalyst
for significantly improving the Federal investment in
education. It is the Committee's view that the time is now to
take bold reforms and encourage reform-minded States to
continue their successes. Federal funds should be focused on
helping children and their schools, not on preserving separate
funding streams and maintaining separate categorical Federal
programs. If H.R. 2300 is signed into law, all students,
especially the disadvantaged students who were the focus of
Federal legislation in 1965, may finally receive effective
instruction and be held to high standards.
H.R. 2300 gives States and local educational agencies the
option of agreeing to meet substantial academic achievement
goals agreed to in a five-year performance agreementsubmitted
to the Secretary of Education. If the agreement is approved by the
Secretary, States would be able to consolidate federal program funds
included in the agreement, it would be freed from the individual
requirements of those programs. H.R. 2300 specifically describes the
assurances and academic achievement goals States or school districts
must include in their performance agreement; how states must allocate
funds under the agreement; the penalties States and local educational
agencies are subject to for failing to meet the terms of the
performance agreement; the financial rewards for significantly
narrowing achievement gaps and improving overall student achievement;
and the civil rights and other protections that remain in effect.
Section 1--Provides the short title of the Act as the
``Academic Achievement for All Act (Straight A's Act).
Section 2--States the purpose of the Act.
Section 3--Describes the performance agreement a State has
the option of entering into with the Secretary of Education.
(a) Authorizes the State to enter into an optional
(b) States that parents, teachers, schools and school
districts must be given time by the State to give comment on
(c) States that the Secretary must make a written
determination within 60 days on the agreement or it is
(d) Describes provisions required in each performance
Section 4--Lists eligible programs.
(a) Lists the programs that are eligible under this Act:
part A of title I; part B of title I; part C of title I; part D
of title I; part B of title II; section 3132 of title III;
title IV, title VI, and part C of title VII, of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act of 1965, section 307 of the
Department of Education Appropriation Act of 1999,
Comprehensive School Reform Programs as authorized under
section 1502 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965, title III of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act,
sections 115 and 116, and parts B and C of title I of the Carl
D. Perkins Vocational Technical Education Act, and subtitle B
of title VII of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance
(b) Provides that States may consolidate funds from
programs under (a) and that the program requirements are no
longer in effect, except that the proportion of funds for
national programs and allocations to States will remain the
same (States will not lose their proportion of funds if they
chose to participate).
(c) Provides that allocations can be used for any
elementary and secondary educational purposes permitted by
Section 5--Describes requirements for State fund
distribution to local educational agencies.
(a) Provides that the State legislature and the Governor
determine how funds are distributed according to State
constitution or State law.
(b) Provides that States, under State law, must provide
parents, teachers, schools and school districts time to comment
(c) Provides that States that include part A of title I
agree to provide local educational agencies with funds equal to
or greater than the amount they would have received under part
(A) of title I in the previous fiscal year. States must reduce
the amount each local educational agency receives in a uniform
fashion if funds that they receive from the Secretary are not
Section 6--Describes the local participation option.
(a) Provides that local agencies who are eligible to submit
a performance agreement to the Secretary only if the State
agency does not choose to participate in the Act.
(b) Sets forth requirements of local educational agencies
that submit performance plans.
(c) Describes exceptions that do not apply to local
Section 7--Sets forth State and local limits on
Section 8--Describes penalties.
Section 9--Sets forth requirements for renewal of the
Section 10--Sets forth achievement gap reduction reward.
Section 11--Requires the Secretary to make annual State
reports available to the House Committee on Education and the
Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor
Section 12--States that Straight A's supersedes provisions
of title XIV of ESEA.
Section 13--States that this Act supersedes provisions of
the General Education Provisions Act, except in the areas of
civil rights, withholding funds and enforcement authority, and
family educational and privacy rights.
Section 14--States that the Act does not affect home
schools in relation to being treated as a private school or
home school under State law.
Section 15--States that the Act does not give the Federal
government control over any private, religious, or home school
under State law.
Section 16--Definitions section.
Explanation of Amendments
The Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute is explained in
the body of this report.
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch
Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a
description of the application of this bill to the legislative
branch. This bill, H.R. 2300, the ``Academic Achievement for
All Act,'' focuses federal resources for education on
increasing student performance and narrowing achievement gaps.
It gives States, school districts and schools the option of
receiving additional flexibility in the use of fourteen state-
administered, federal elementary and secondary education
program funds in exchange for increased accountability for
academic achievement. The bill does not prevent legislative
branch employees from receiving the benefits of this
Unfunded Mandate Statement
Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement of
whether the provisions of the reported bill include unfunded
mandates. H.R. 2300 gives States, school districts and schools
the option of receiving additional flexibility in the use of
fourteen state-administered, federal elementary and secondary
education program funds in exchange for increased
accountability for academic achievement. As such, the bill does
not contain any unfunded mandates.
Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives requires the Committee Report to include for
each record vote on a motion to report the measure or matter
and on any amendments offered to the measure or matter the
total number of votes for and against and the names of the
Members voting for and against.
Washington, DC, October 15, 1999.
Hon. William F. Goodling,
Chairman, Education and the Workforce Committee,
2181 Rayburn House Office Building.
Dear Mr. Chairman, due to unforseen circumstances, I was
unavoidably detained during the Committees consideration of
H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievement for All Act and as such
missed Rollcall Vote number 2 on favorably reporting the bill.
Had I been present, I would have voted ``aye.''
I would appreciate your including this letter in the
Committee Report to accompany H.R. 2300. Thank you for your
attention to this matter.
Matt Salmon, Member of Congress.
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee
In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
New Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate
With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule
XIII of the House of Representatives and section 308(a) of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect to
requirements of 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the House of
Representatives and section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for H.R. 2300 from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, October 15, 1999.
Hon. William F. Goodling,
Chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed estimate for H.R. 2300, the Academic
Achievement for All Act (Straight A's Act).
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Audra Millen.
Barry B. Anderson
(For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
H.R. 2300--Academic Achievement for All Act (Straight A's Act)
Summary: H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievement for All Act
(also referred to as the Straight A's Act), would allow the
Department of Education to delegate to states a portion of its
waiver-granting authority. The bill would give any State or
Local Educational Agency (SEA or LEA) the option to combine
funds under certain federal elementary and secondary education
programs for the purpose of improving student achievement. The
Secretary of Education would waive the primary requirements
governing funds under those programs and participating SEAs and
LEAs would be held accountable for demonstrating improvements
in student performance outcomes.
CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2300 would affect the rate
of spending from funds that were appropriated for fiscal year
1999. Such effects would constitute changes in direct spending;
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would apply to the bill. We
estimate that direct spending would increase by $18 million in
2000 and $5 million in 2001, and decrease by $16 million in
2002 and $7 million in 2003. Implementing the bill also would
affect discretionary spending by providing the same flexibility
to states for use of funds yet to be appropriated for fiscal
year 2000. Subject to appropriation of the amounts already
authorized for 2000, CBO estimates that discretionary outlays
would be $125 million higher in 2001, and $125 million lower
over the 2002-2004 period, relative to our estimates of such
spending under current law.
H.R. 2300 contains no private-sector or intergovernmental
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
Any costs to state and local governments resulting from
enactment of this bill would be incurred voluntarily. Tribal
governments would not be affected by the provisions of this
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated
budgetary impact of H.R. 2300 is shown in the following table:
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 500
(education, training, and employment and social services).
By fiscal years in millions of dollars--
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
CHANGES IN DIRECT SPENDING
Budget Authority.............................................. 0 0 0 0 0
Estimated Outlays............................................. 18 5 -16 -7 0
SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Spending Under Current Law:
Estimted Authorization Level \1\.......................... 12,006 0 0 0 0
Estimated Outlays......................................... 11,070 11,168 3,800 762 56
Authorization Level....................................... 0 0 0 0 0
Estimated Outlays......................................... 0 125 -31 -63 -31
Spending Under H.R. 2300:
Estimated Authorization Level............................. 12,006 0 0 0 0
Estimated Outlays......................................... 11,070 11,293 3,769 699 24
\1\ A full-year appropriation has not yet been provided for 2000.
Note.--Components may not add to totals because of rounding.
Basis of estimate
Historically, federal education programs have been designed
to direct federal dollars for a specific educational purpose.
Program requirements restrict the uses and activities of the
funds provided. However, the Education Flexibility Partnership
Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-25), which was enacted on April 29,
1999, allowed qualifying states to waive the requirements of
certain education programs and provided some school districts
with the opportunity to use Class Size Reduction funds for
professional development programs.CBO assumed that about 9
percent of schools would use the new authority under Public Law 106-25
to reallocate their 1999 Class Size Reduction funds for other purposes.
The Straight A's Act, on the other hand, would provide
greater authority for SEAs and LEAs to waive most of the
current program restrictions in exchange for increased
accountability. States would be able to consolidate funds from
their choice of certain existing programs, including the newly
funded Class Size Reduction program. The 1999 appropriations
for the programs covered under H.R. 2300 total $11.9 billion,
including $1.2 billion for classroom size reduction. States
would be required to submit a plan detailing how they will use
the consolidated funds to improve student achievement and what
assessment measures they will use. Once approved, the states
could use all of the included funds without regard for the
purpose or restrictions of the original programs. To remain
eligible, states would have to demonstrate improvement in
How states would use the flexibility offered under H.R.
2300 is uncertain. Some members of the education community have
argued that the accountability requirements of the bill would
discourage participation, whereas others believe that most
states would prefer the flexibility the bill offers. CBO
assumes that any budgetary effects of the bill would occur
because states chose to reallocate funds provided for classroom
size reduction, a program that is projected to spend more
slowly than other elementary and secondary education programs.
CBO estimates that H.R. 2300, in combination with the
estimated effect of Public Law 106-25, would affect 20 percent
of the 1999 funds for classroom size reduction. We expect that
those funds would be spent at an accelerated rate. This change
would increase outlays in 2000 and 2001 by $18 million and $5
million, respectively, and lower outlays by $16 million in 2002
and $7 million in 2003.
Spending subject to appropriation
The Straight A's Act also affects funding for fiscal year
2000, the last year of authorization for most of the elementary
and secondary programs. For 2000, full-year appropriations have
not been provided yet. However, there are expected to be
similar changes in the rates of spending, and discussed above.
By 2001, CBO assumes that one-half of the states which do not
take advantage of H.R. 2300 in 2000 will do so in 2001 and
beyond. Consequently, by 2001, 60 percent of all the states
would be using the flexibility provide under the bill. In
fiscal year 2001, outlays from estimated 2000 authorization
levels are expected to be $125 million higher if H.R. 2300 is
enacted. We estimate that outlays in 2002, 2003, and2004 would
be lower by $31 million, $63 million, and $31 million, respectively,
resulting in no net effect over the 2001-2004 period.
Pay-as-you-go considerations: The Balanced Budget and
Emergency Deficit Control Act sets up pay-as-you-go procedures
for legislation affecting direct spending or receipts. The net
changes in outlays that are subject to pay-as-you-go procedures
are shown in the following table. For the purposes of enforcing
pay-as-you-go procedures, only the effects in the budget year
and the succeeding four years are counted.
By fiscal years, in millions of dollars--
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Changes in outlays.................... 18 5 -16 -7 0 0 0 0 0 0
Changes in receipts................... Not applicable
Estimated impact on state, local, and tribal governments:
H.R. 2300 contains no intergovernmental mandates as defined in
UMRA. Any costs incurred by state or local governments as a
result of participation in the program created by this bill
would be voluntary. Tribal governments would not be affected by
the provisions of this bill.
Under H.R. 2300, states (and local educational agencies in
non-participating states) would voluntarily enter into
performance agreements with the Department of Education to make
measurable improvements in the academic achievement of all
students. In return, sates or local educational agencies would
be authorized to combine funding from fourteen federal
education programs to be used for any educational purpose
permitted by sate law in the participating state. While states
and local educational agencies may incur costs to develop
performance measures and systems to monitor and report
progress, such costs would be incurred voluntarily.
Estimated impact on the private sector: The bill contains
no private-sector mandates as defined in UMRA.
Statement of Oversight Findings of the Committee on Government Reform
With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(4) of rule
XIII of the rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee has received no report of oversight findings and
recommendations from the Committee on Government Reform on the
subject of H.R. 2300.
Constitutional Authority Statement
Pursuant to clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that the
Constitutional authority for this legislation is provided in
Article I, section 8, clause 1, which grants Congress the power
to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports and excises, to pay
the debts and provide for the common defense and general
welfare of the United States.
Clauses 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out
H.R. 2300. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides
that this requirement does not apply when the committee has
included in its report at timely submitted cost estimate of the
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported are shown as follows (new matter is
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is
proposed is shown in roman). There are no amendments to
Those who wish to diminish federal control over education
should cast an unenthusiastic yes vote for the Academic
Achievement for All Students Freedom and Accountability Act
(STRAIGHT ``As''). While this bill does increase the ability of
state and local governments to educate children free from
federal mandates and regulations, and is thus a marginal
improvement over existing federal law, STRAIGHT ``As'' fails to
challenge the federal government's unconstitutional control of
education. In fact, under STRAIGHT ``As'' states and local
school districts will still be treated as administrative
subdivisions of the federal education bureaucracy. Furthermore,
this bill does not remove the myriad requirements imposed on
states and local school districts by federal bureaucrats in the
name of promoting ``civil rights.'' Thus, a school district
participating in STRAIGHT ``As'' will still have to place
children in failed bilingual education programs or face the
wrath of the Department of Education's misnamed Office of Civil
The fact that this bill increases, however marginally, the
ability of states and localities to control education, is a
step forward. As long as the federal government continues to
levy oppressive taxes on the American people, and then funnel
that money back to the states to use for education programs,
defenders of the Constitution should support all efforts to
reduce the hoops through which states must jump in order to
reclaim some of the people's tax monies.
However, there are a number of both practical and
philosophical concerns regarding this bill. The primary
objection to STRAIGHT ``As,'' from a constitutional viewpoint,
is embedded in the very mantra of ``accountability'' stressed
by the drafters of the bill. Talk of accountability begs the
question: accountable to whom? Under this bill, schools remain
accountable to federal bureaucrats and those who develop the
state tests upon which a participating school's performance is
judged. Should the schools not live up to their
bureaucratically-determined ``performance goals,'' they will
lose the flexibility granted to them under this act. So federal
and state bureaucrats will determine if the schools are to be
allowed to participate in the STRAIGHT ``As'' programs and
bureaucrats will judge whether the states are living up to the
standards set in the state's five-year education plan--yet this
is supposed to debureaucratize and decentralize education!
Under the United States Constitution, the federal
government has no authority to hold states ``accountable'' for
their education performance. In the free society envisioned by
the founders, schools are held accountable to parents, not
federal bureaucrats. However, the current system of leveling
oppressive taxes on America's families and using those taxes to
fund federal education program denies parental control of
education by denying them control over the education dollar.
Because ``he who pays the piper calls the tune,'' when the
federal government controls the education dollar schools will
obey the dictates of federal ``educrats'' while ignoring the
wishes of the parents.
In order to provide parents with the means to hold schools
accountable, I have introduced the Family Education Freedom Act
(HR 935). The Family Education Freedom Act restores parental
control over the classroom by providing American parents a tax
credit of up to $3,000 for the expenses incurred in sending
their child to private, public, parochial, other religious
school, or for home schooling their children.
The Family Education Freedom Act returns the fundamental
principal of a truly free economy to America's education
system: what the great economist Ludwig von Mises called
``consumer sovereignty.'' Consumer sovereignty simply means
consumers decide who succeeds or fails in the market.
Businesses that best satisfy consumer demand will be the most
successful. Consumer sovereignty is the means by which the free
society maximizes human happiness.
When parents control the education dollar, schools must be
responsive to parental demands that their children receive
first-class educations, otherwise, parents will find
alternative means to educate their children. Furthermore,
parents whose children are in public schools may use their
credit to improve their schools by helping to finance the
purchase of educational tools such as computers or
extracurricular activities such as music programs. Parents of
public school students may also wish to use the credit to pay
for special services for their children.
H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievement for all Act, is nothing
less than a national abandonment of our commitment to help our
country's most disadvantaged public schools. The bill
essentially would give states a ``blank check'' for billions of
dollars in the form of revenue sharing, without accountability
or protection of our most vulnerable students.
The H.R. 2300 block grant scheme would allow states to
convert part or all of Federal aid into private school
vouchers, thus decimating public schools. It would allow states
to slash funding for poor schools and move that funding to the
most affluent schools. It would allow states to take funds
appropriated specifically for special need students, and use it
for the general student population.
H.R. 2300 also reneges on the bipartisan agreement reached
this week on Title I of ESEA to strengthen accountability and
performance of Title I schools.
The H.R. 2300 block grant is bad education policy
Block grants have failed because they lack the focus
required to ensure accountability for results in the use of
taxpayer dollars to stimulate real reform. Many federal
education programs were enacted because states and communities
had difficulty meeting the special educational needs of poor,
limited English proficient, migrant, neglected, delinquent, and
or homeless children. H.R. 2300 surrenders this commitment.
We know from experience that block grants lead to decreased
political support for funding because they lack focus and
accountability. For example, in 1981 Congress consolidated 26
programs into a single block grant (now Title VI of ESEA).
Since then, funding for Title VI has dwindled, falling 63
percent in real terms since 1981. Today,the program has no
accountability, no focus, and can demonstrate no success in
improving educational achievement. Based on this sorry record,
the Republican Majority seeks to emulate this failed idea that
has done nothing to improve student achievement.
Loss of targeting and national priorities
H.R. 2300 fails to target Federal funds to the districts,
schools, and students with the greatest needs. In particular,
it guts the very mission of Title I of ESEA, the nation's $8
billion flagship program for the nation's poor children. H.R.
2300 would essentially repeal Title I's need and poverty-based
allocation procedures by allowing States to distribute funds in
a way that the governors and State legislatures decide. In many
states this would be a disaster for the nation's poor students.
Many other programs focus dollars to poor areas. Class Size
Reduction allocations are based largely on the number of poor
children in each district. Similarly, criteria for State
allocation of Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds to local
education agencies include ``high-need factors'' such as high
rates of drug use or student violence.
Most Federal education programs were created specifically
to serve disadvantaged groups, after Congress found that States
and localities were not meeting the needs of those groups on
their own. Nearly 30 years after the creation of many Federal
education programs, GAO still finds that State funding formulas
are significantly less targeted on high-need districts and
children than are Federal formulas.\1\
\1\ In 1998, GAO found that high-poverty districts had less local
funding than low-poverty district per weighted pupil in 37 of the 47
states GAO analyzed. When GAO added state and federal funds to local
funds for GAO's analysis, only 21 states still had such funding gaps,
and these gaps were smaller in each state. Nevertheless, about 64
percent of the nation's poor students live in these 21 states. See
``School Finance State and Federal Efforts to Target Poor Students''
(GAO/HEHS-98-36, January 1998).
Congress has often helped communities address national
priorities with resources, based on a sound track record by
local educational agencies. For example, national leadership by
Congress to reduce class size in the early grades, tackle youth
and drug alcohol abuse, and provide professional development
for teachers, and enhance technology in the schools have
already reaped rewards. H.R. 2300 guts these key national
priorities, despite overwhelming public support.
Straight A's is the Anti-Accountability Act
The Republican Majority's emphasis on block granting,
eliminating oversight and accountability, and eliminating
targeting, flies in the face of the ``Academic Achievement for
All'' that the Majority purport to want. The reality is that
only a strong federal role in education will assure that all
children have equal access and equal opportunity to quality
education. The Straight A's Act would replace the fiscal and
performance requirements with a toothless ``performance
agreement.'' The States could take federal funds allocated for
poor and special needs students and use it for ``any
educational purpose permitted by State law.'' The Secretary
would have to approve these 5 year agreements, even if they
include weak and ineffective assessment and performance
indicators. States that fail to meet these so called
performance agreements would face only minimal sanctions (loss
of some administrative funds.)
Breaks the bipartisan agreement to strengthen Title I
It is ironic that the Republican Majority would pass the
Straight A's ``block grant'' scheme on the day it voted, in a
bipartisan manner, to enhance the accountability and
performance of Title I programs. H.R. 2, as amended by the
Committee maintains targeting requirements to serve poorest
schools first, increases funding for Title I schools, requires
parent report cards to help parents hold schools accountable,
requires all teachers to become fully accountable, prohibits
use of Title I funds for private vouchers, continues the 1994
reforms requiring all states to have rigorous standards and
assessments, and makes permanent the comprehensive, research
based educational school reform program that helps communities
overhaul struggling schools.
H.R. 2 eviscerates these bipartisan reforms before the ink
on the bipartisan agreement is dry and returns to the partisan
attacks on federal aid to public education that have dominated
much of the Republican-controlled Congress.\2\
\2\ Since the Republicans took control of the House of
Representatives in 1994, they have proposed: abolishing the Department
of Education; diverting of dollars in public school funds for private
school vouchers; cutting school lunches; ending equal opportunity in
higher education; gutting bilingual education; tax cuts for the wealthy
to send children to private schools; slashing billions of dollars from
education programs; eliminating the summer youth jobs program;
eliminating school-to-work opportunities for high school students;
eliminating the in-school interest subsidy for student loans; and
eliminating the safe and drug-free school program.
H.R. 2300 torpedoes local school control
While H.R. 2300 may be a bonanza for governors, it excludes
local school district participation. The Council of Great City
Schools, which represents the country's largest and diverse
public schools, strongly opposes H.R. 2300;
``The bill repeals from current law virtually all critical
local decision-making authority regarding the use and focus of
the super flex funding, allowing the States to dictate local
uses of funds based upon their political judgment at the moment
* * * [It allows] * * * the State's chosen priority, to the
exclusion of local school district priorities such as reading,
math, science, or special needs children. A state could decide
to use all these federal funds for private school vouchers, if
allowed under State law.''
There is a national consensus to promote high academic
standards for all children, target resources to children with
the greatest need, and enhance public accountability and
oversight. The public overwhelmingly supports federal aid to
help communities reduce class sizes, ensure high quality
teachers, and help all children learn the basics. This bill
shamefully abandons the federal partnership in public
education, and leaves disadvantaged schools and school children
to fend for themselves.
The National Coalition for
Washington, DC, October 5, 1999.
Committee on Education and the Workforce,
House of Representatives,
Dear Representative: The National Coalition for Public
Education is comprised of more than 50 education, civic, civil
rights, and religious organizations devoted to the support of
public schools. Our coalition is opposed to the diversion of
public education funds to private and religious school vouchers
or other similar funding mechanisms. It is with our mission in
mind that the undersigned organizations are writing to oppose
H.R. 2300, the ``Academic Achievement for All'' (Straight A's)
In the Straight A's bill, funds can be used for any
educational purpose determined by the governor and state
legislature that is permitted by state law. In some states,
large amounts of money could be diverted from public schools,
where 90% of our Nation's students are educated, to private or
religious schools that serve a far smaller number of students.
Our coalition opposes vouchers because:
Vouchers do not ensure parental ``choice.''
Private schools do not have to serve all students and can
reject those with disabilities, who lack English proficiency or
have other special needs. Choice really belongs to the private
school administrators who select who will be admitted.
Vouchers do not improve public schools through
Public and private schools are not on a level playing
field, so genuine competition is impossible. Public schools
must accept all students, whereas private schools can hand-
select who will be admitted.
Voucher programs lack accountability.
Private schools are not required to be accountable to the
public. Private schools do not have to disclose test scores,
drop out rates, or school safety and discipline information.
Vouchers do not protect our children's civil
Private schools are not subject to and do not have to
comply with all federal anti-discrimination laws designed to
protect our children.
Vouchers would force federal taxpayers to support
religious beliefs and practices with which they may strongly
Public funds used to pay for parochial school education is
a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment doctrine
of church-state separation.
In conclusion, we do not believe there is a need for the
massive and arbitrary overhauls of federal education programs
proposed in the Academic Achievement for All Act. Congressional
committees review federal programs regularly and refine and
improve them as needed. In fact, as a result of recent
reauthorizations, school districts already have tremendous
flexibility to make decisions about how they will use the money
they receive from federal programs. In addition, the Ed-Flex
bill, just enacted in April, provides for increased
flexibility, but still maintains program purpose and integrity.
Just last month, the House of Representatives adopted important
new accountability provisions requiring teachers to be
certified and qualified to teach, yet Straight A's could allow
states to disregard these provisions in their performance plans
if they so choose.
We ask that you focus on improving current ESEA programs,
and not overhaul them as outlined in H.R. 2300. Instead we ask
that you strengthen your commitment to improving education
through support for an increased federal investment.
American Association of University Women;
American Federation of School Administrators;
American Federation of Teachers;
Association for Career and Technical Education;
Consortium for School Networking;
Council of the Chief State School Officers;
Council of The Great City Schools;
International Reading Association;
National Alliance of Black School Educators;
National Association for Bilingual Education;
National Association for Elementary School
National Association of School Psychologists;
National Association of Secondary School
National Association of State Boards of Education;
National Association of State Directors of Special
National Education Association;
National Education Knowledge Industry Association;
National Science Teachers Association;
New York State Education Department.
on Civil Rights,
Washington, DC, October 1, 1999.
Hon. William L. Clay,
House of Representatives, Rayburn House Office Building,
H.R. 2300 Undercuts Education Reform and Fails to Target Resources
Dear Representative Clay: The Leadership Conference on
Civil Rights (LCCR) strongly supports legislation that will
extend and improve the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (ESEA) Title I reforms that Congress adopted to provide
educational opportunity to all children. We oppose the Academic
Achievement for All Act (Straight A's) (H.R. 2300) because it
would undercut the premise of those reforms by diluting the
commitment to higher standards and dissipating the effort to
target resources to children who need them the most. Further,
it would have a grave impact on the gender equity language that
LCCR worked hard to incorporate into the 1994 ESEA.
H.R. 2300 would create a block grant that gives states,
through governors and state legislatures, the authority to
consolidate over $11.9 billion on federal education funds. More
than 80 percent of all Federal support to elementary and
secondary education would be included in this block grant.
Further, states could divert education funds to other purposes.
Currently local school districts have authority and
flexibility with their federal education funds to carry out the
programs established by Congress. H.R. 2300 would allow
governors and state legislatures, not local school districts,
control over all federal education funds. Thus, if this bill
were enacted, the balance of authority within a state would
shift from local communities to governors and state
LCCR believes that H.R. 2300 undermines the federal
commitment to improve public schools. It offers funding to
states with no assurance that these funds will go to helping
all children reach high standards and support proven practices
to raise student achievement. Straight A's does not ensure that
the most disadvantaged students receive the resources and
support they need to achieve high academic standards, and it
does not promote gender bias-free education. Indeed, as a
recent Government Accounting Office report pointed out, federal
education funds are much more targeted to areas of need than
Nor has any case been made that H.R. 2300 is needed. Broad
authority to waive regulations exists under current law and
there is no evidence that states or local school districts are
currently restrained from taking any educational initiative.
If H.R. 2300 is enacted, governors and legislatures could
decide to use all federal education funding without regard to
the specific educational purposes that Congress has identified
as national priorities. H.R. 2300 would effectively eliminate
most of the federal education programs, including: the Women's
Educational Equity Act (WEEA), the only federal program aimed
at promoting educational equity for girls and women; Title I,
which provides funding to low-income schools; and professional
development, education technology, and vocational education
programs. If H.R. 2300 were to become law, schools would no
longer be encouraged to promote gender bias-free education
including: addressing gender bias in teacher training;
preventing sexual harassment in schools; meeting the special
needs of pregnant and parenting teenagers; or promoting math
and science courses for girls.
We urge you to support higher standards and targeting
resources to children who need them most and to oppose H.R.
2300 when it is considered by the House Education and the
Workforce Committee. If you have any questions, please call
Wade Henderson, Bill Taylor, or Nancy Zirkin.
Leadership Conference on
Leadership Conference on
American Association of
Council of the Great City Schools,
Washington, DC, October 12, 1999.
Hon. William Clay,
Ranking Member, Education and the Workforce Committee,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Congressman Clay: The Council of the Great City
Schools, the coalition of the nation's largest central city
school districts, writes to express our unequivocal opposition
to the Straight A's bill pending before the Committee.
The bill overrides the traditional focus of federal
education assistance that targets funds and services on
children with special needs. This ``super flex'' approach is
tantamount to a wide-open block grant of federal elementary and
secondary aid. Ironically, this untargeted approach is
apparently unacceptable for educational services targeted on
disabled children, but acceptable for disadvantaged children,
migrant children, neglected and delinquent children, and
The bill repeals from current law virtually all critical
local decision-making authority regarding the use and focus of
these super flex funds, allowing the States to dictate local
uses of funds based upon their political judgement at the
moment. School discipline and security, for example, could be
the State's chosen priority, to the exclusion of local school
district priorities such as reading, math, science, or special
needs children. A State could decide to use all these federal
funds for private school vouchers, if allowed under State law.
And similarly, a State could hire an army of new state
employees to ostensibly help local school districts.
In addition, the bill overrides current local formula
allocations under a variety of programs, replacing these local
allocations with only a minimal Title I hold-harmless provision
to ensure that a school district receives any funding
whatsoever under this bill. In short, with the exception of a
Title I hold-harmless, this ``Straight A's'' bill allows for
State discretionary de-funding of individual school districts.
Finally, the bill ostensibly trades flexibility for greater
accountability. Yet, the bill provides for only a minimal
administrative wrist slap if no progress is made in the five-
year term of the State performance agreement.
The Council requests a ``NO'' vote on this unwise and
potentially harmful measure.
Michael Casserly, Executive Director.
National Education Association,
Washington, DC, October 5, 1999.
Committee on Education and the Workforce,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Representative: On behalf of the National Education
Association's (NEA) 2.4 million members, we would like to
express our strong opposition to the Academic Achievement for
All Act (H.R. 2300), scheduled to be marked-up October 6th. We
believe this bill would have devastating consequences for the
future strength of our public education system.
NEA strongly supports efforts to strengthen federal
education programs through increased efficiency, effectiveness
and flexibility. The proposed block grant legislation, however,
would undermine such reform efforts by failing to maintain
fiscal and programmatic accountability, eliminating targeting
of programs to specific needs, and diluting distribution of
funds to schools based on financial need.
Federal investment in public education has been successful
precisely because of the accountability and controls placed on
the dollars and the targeting of federal resources to those
areas with the greatest needs. Targeted, accountable, federal
programs have been essential in addressing national concerns
not addressed by individual states and in ensuring all students
a quality public education. Eliminating federal accountability
and local decision-making--and turning all control for federal
dollars over to Governors--represents a major step in the wrong
In addition, because the proposed legislation allows
federal funds to be used for any education purpose permissible
under state law, it could result in the diversion of dollars
away from public schools through private or religious school
vouchers. NEA strongly opposes vouchers and voucher-like plans
that divert essential resources from the 90 percent of students
attending public schools.
Finally, NEA believes that the proposed block grant would
contradict the very important accountability proposals included
in the Student Results Act (H.R. 2). By allowing states to opt
out of these accountability provisions, H.R. 2300 undermines
bipartisan efforts to strengthen programs through increased
We believe H.R. 2300 represents a dangerous threat to
efforts to enact positive education reforms and to strengthen
public education for the 21st century. We strongly urge you to
oppose H.R. 2300.
Mary Elizabeth Teasley,
Director of Government Relations.
William L. Clay.
Dale E. Kildee.
Major R. Owens.
Patsy T. Mink.
Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Matthew G. Martinez.
Donald M. Payne.
Robert E. Andrews.
John F. Tierney.
Dennis J. Kucinich.
During the House Education and the Workforce Committee's
markup of H.R. 2300, the Academic Achievement for All Act
(Straight A's Act), Congressman Chaka Fattah offered and we
supported an amendments that would focus the Federal
government's efforts on ensuring that all public school
students receive an equal and adequate education regardless of
where they live. This amendments received the full support of
our Democratic colleagues on the Committee.
Congressman Fattah's amendment offered to H.R. 2300 on
educational equity would simply require that States certify to
the Secretary of Education that either the per pupil
expenditures are ``substantially equal'' across the state or
that achievement levels are ``substantially equal'' across the
state. The amendment further calls for the consultation with
the National Academy of Sciences to develop definitions for
``substantially equal'' and ``per pupil expenditures''.
When the issue of school finance equity has been raised
supporters of the status quo have argued that achievement is
not directly related to quantity of dollars and services
provided to public school students. We strongly disagree with
this assertion. The obsolescence of our nation's school finance
systems is having a devastating effect on both educational
equity and educational equality in school districts all over
the country. There has been no significant change in these
systems for 70 years. Court challenges pending in 23 states are
finding not only that they perpetuate gross disparities in the
resources that are available to districts of different wealth,
but also that these antiquated systems are geared to meeting
minimum standards rather than to providing the high quality,
world class education our children need to compete in today's
The United States consistently ranks last among the top ten
industrialized nations in the educational attainment of its
students. Most of the school districts in the country need
enriched and expanded curricula, better facilities, higher
quality and greater quantity of text books, instructional
equipment, audiovisual materials, consumable supplies, computer
labs and libraries. Poorer school districts have inferior
course offerings, dilapidated facilities, higher drop out
rates, and failing scores. We cannot lift our national
performance without addressing the need of these districts. We
cannot preserve our viability as a nation unless we can insure
children have the level of education they need to be citizens
and to compete in the labor market.
Patsy T. Mink.
Donald M. Payne.