H.R. 3248, THE DOLLARS TO THE CLASSROOM ACT
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 5, 1998
Serial No. 105-104
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
TABLE OF CONTENTS
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE FRANK RIGGS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM CLAY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOSEPH R. PITTS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE TIMOTHY HUTCHINSON, A U.S SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROSA DELAURO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHN TIERNEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS *
STATEMENT OF LINDA C. SCHRENKO, GEORGIA SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, AND VICE CHAIR, EDUCATION LEADERS COUNCIL *
STATEMENT OF FRANK BROGAN, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, STATE OF FLORIDA, AND CHAIRMAN, EDUCATION LEADERS COUNCIL *
STATEMENT OF PAUL SOUSA, SUPERINTENDENT OF MOBILE COUNTY SCHOOLS IN ALABAMA *
STATEMENT OF EDWARD SPANG, PRINCIPAL, UNIONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL, KENNET SQUARE, PENNSYLVANIA *
STATEMENT OF BRIAN WALTMAN, CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY TEACHER, SMITH MIDDLE SCHOOL, STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA *
APPENDIX A Written statement of the Honorable Frank Riggs *
APPENDIX B Written statement of the Honorable Joseph Pitts *
APPENDIX C Written statement of the Honorable Tim Hutchinson *
APPENDIX D Written statement of the Honorable John Tierney *
APPENDIX E Written statement of the Honorable Rosa DeLauro *
APPENDIX F Written statement of Superintendent Linda Schrenko *
APPENDIX G Written statement of Commissioner Frank Brogan *
APPENDIX H Written statement of Superintendent Paul Sousa *
*** Copies of the statements of Representative John F. Tierney (MA) and the American Association of School Administrators, et al. may be obtained by calling the majority office of the Committee on Education and the Workforce at 225-4527.
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:10 p.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Frank Riggs presiding.
Present: Representatives Ballenger, Barrett, McKeon, Knollenberg, Riggs, Peterson, Scarborough, Clay, Miller, Kildee, Payne, Mink, Scott, Woolsey, Fattah, Hinojosa, Tierney, Ford, and Kucinich.
Staff present: Susan Firth, professional staff member; Melanie Merola, staff assistant; Christy Olson, professional staff member; Sally Lovejoy, Education Policy Advisor; Vic Klatt, Education Policy Coordinator; Jo Marie St. Martin, general counsel; Kent Talbert, professional staff member; June Harris, educational coordinator; Cheryl Johnson, legislative associate; and Roxanna Folescu, staff assistant.
THE HONORABLE FRANK RIGGS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF
Mr. Riggs. [presiding] The committee will come to order.
I'm delighted to welcome our guests today to this hearing of the full Committee on Education and the Workforce on the Dollars to the Classroom Act, House Resolution 3248. I want to again welcome everyone and wish you a good afternoon.
My name is Frank Riggs. I represent the first district of California, and I'm filling in for the chairman of the full committee, Bill Goodling, who is detained on other business, congressional business, in his district in Pennsylvania. I do chair the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families, commonly known as the K-12 Education Subcommittee, so this legislation, Congressman Pitts' resolution, would fall under the jurisdiction of our subcommittee.
This afternoon, we're going to hear from Members of Congress, including one of our very, very distinguished colleagues, an alumnus, I guess you could say, of this committee, who's gone on to bigger and better things--Senator Tim Hutchinson of the State of Arkansas--as well as other colleagues who'll be introduced momentarily, and, also, State and local education officials, on one approach for improving student achievement, an approach that, I might add, I think is very appropriate for a nation as diverse and decentralized as ours.
We know that children achieve when they focus--when we focus on directing funding for programs that help them master the basics, the core academic subjects; when parents are engaged and involved in the learning of their children and are empowered to make decisions regarding the education and schooling that they deem most appropriate for their children; and when we move money, dollars, into the classrooms where learning takes place and, hopefully, to actually pay someone who knows that child's name. That, by the way, is a sound bite that I have borrowed from Lindsey Graham, who was the first person I heard coin that phrase.
Today's hearing focuses on the latter of those principles, which is ensuring that the maximum amount of Federal funding, Federal taxpayer funding, for education, most of which today goes into a variety of categorical aid programs, reaches the classroom at the local level. We want to make sure that every tax dollar we spend on education makes a real difference in the life of a child. Yet we also know that far too many teachers have not been given the tools they need to effectively teach all children to read and, lest anybody here think that we would be involved in any kind of teacher bashing, I just want to stipulate for the record that I have a tremendous regard for the teaching profession, that good teachers are the key to quality education for all children, and that I subscribe to the slogan that a teacher can effect eternity because they never know where their influence might end.
We know that far too many children use outdated textbooks or learn about science in rooms that have no laboratories. And we hope that, by ensuring that the money we collect from Federal taxpayers and that is sent here to Washington, gets back to classrooms around the country at the local level. Then, we believe, we would begin to see real change take place in public education.
The Dollars to the Classroom Act represents an effort to do just that. This legislation builds upon the principle adopted by the House last October; and by the Senate several days ago, with bipartisan support, I understand, in the so-called Dollars to the Classroom Resolution that I believe Senator Hutchinson offered. The Dollars to the Classroom Resolution, simply stated, says that we should work together to ensure that at least 90 cents of every Federal taxpayer dollar for education reaches the classroom. Studies have indicated that this level of funding does not currently reach classrooms in local schools around the country. So we think we can do better; we can improve on the track record of Federal taxpayer funding and in increasing that funding support for local education around the classroom.
The Dollars to the Classroom Act strives to put the principle of getting more resources down to the classroom actually into action. And it would do that by combining 35 programs, categorical aid programs funded with Federal taxpayer dollars, totaling over $3.5 billion, into a block grant to the States.
And just one side note on the idea of a block grant to States: Many of us are very concerned about the tendency in education in recent years to try to federalize or nationalize education. That flies in the face of the longstanding American tradition of local control and decentralized decisionmaking in public education. Furthermore, when we had hearings in the subcommittee earlier this year, we heard from school officials at the State and local level who said that, as well-intentioned as initiatives might be, like Federal taxpayer funding for school construction and renovation, which would create a precedent for Federal Government being involved in what has traditionally been a State and local role, or Federal taxpayer funding to hire more teachers in order to reduce class sizes, however well-intended or noble those initiatives might be, they again are contrary to the idea of local control and decisionmaking. And we've heard from local school board members, the California School Boards Association, when they came to town recently, that they would rather have Federal taxpayer funded driven locally with no or few strings attached so that they can decide how best to utilize those precious and scarce funds.
States are required to develop their own definition of the legislation of what they consider to be classroom expenditures and report that to Congress. Once States receive the block grant funding, they must ensure that at least 95 percent, so 95 cents of every dollar, are used for classroom expenditures according to that State's own definition of classroom expenditures.
We have several former teachers and education experts joining us today and I look forward to hearing the testimony of all of our witnesses. And, at this time, I'd like to recognize and yield to the ranking member of the full committee, Congressman Clay of Missouri.
Mr. Clay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, let me welcome this distinguished panel of our colleagues and especially our former colleague on this committee, now senator in the other body, Tim Hutchinson. Secondly, I will also have the pleasure of introducing our commissioner of education from the State of Missouri on the next panel, Dr. Robert Barton, but I won't be here so I would like to ask unanimous consent that my introduction be inserted at that point in the record, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Without objection, it's so ordered.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM CLAY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Mr. Clay. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I'm opposed to this legislation because I believe it's a misnomer in terms of its title; that dollars to the governor, not dollars to the classroom, should be the title of this bill. The bill, in my opinion, would cause a significant redistribution of Federal education funds among States and school districts and would ultimately reduce funding for our most needy students and communities. H.R. 3248 also bypasses local decisionmaking and the authority of the Secretary of Education, by allowing the governor to define and determine classroom activities and services. This bill would be a disaster to administer. H.R. 3248 prohibits the Secretary from holding the programs accountable for the funds and creates confusion over the applicability of maintenance of effort provisions, formula allocations, and current accountability provisions.
Many of the members of the majority believe that the Federal Government's role in education should be minimized. Yet it is the Federal Government that provided the leadership over the past three decades to ensure greater educational opportunities for poor and disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. The Federal role in education has not only been effective, it has been indispensable. Programs such as School-to-Work, Safe and Drug Free schools, women's education equity, and Eisenhower professional development have all improved quality and equity in our public education system. These programs and two dozen others would be eliminated under this bill.
We recognize the importance of sending the vast majority of education dollars to the classroom so the children can receive a quality education. Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to improve education. According to a 1998 GAO report, block grant proposals such as this cannot account for student results.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, I would like to express our willingness to work to adopt a positive approach to improving educational opportunities. We should be supporting local school renewal efforts, addressing the problems of crumbling and overcrowded schools, and helping to reduce class sizes, instead of tearing down programs that have been successful.
Thank you for yielding, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. I thank the distinguished ranking member.
Obviously, our colleagues are waiting for us. Unless there's another member who wishes to make an opening statement, I'd like to proceed to them for their testimony. All right, I see no one seeking recognition from the Chair.
It's my pleasure now to introduce our colleague, Congressman Joe Pitts, the Honorable Joe Pitts, of the 16th district of Pennsylvania. Congressman Pitts and I share an interest in getting more dollars to students, into local classrooms around the country. We've talked several times about this subject and I was supportive of his efforts in the first session of this Congress to pass a res--the Dollars to the Classroom Resolution through the House. He is the lead House sponsor of the Dollars to the Classroom Act and has become a leader in the Congress on efforts related to this particular issue.
So, Joe, we're happy to have you here today. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOSEPH R. PITTS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. Pitts. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding the hearing today on H.R. 3248, the Dollars to the Classroom Act. I appreciate the opportunity to testify on behalf of this important legislation, which Senator Hutchinson and I have been working on for over 15 months. Further, I would like to mention that Majority Leader Dick Armey wanted to testify in favor of this bill today but could not due to a schedule conflict. And so, Mr. Chairman, I ask permission to submit his testimony for the record.
Mr. Riggs. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. Pitts. I have as well a letter from Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin that I would like to submit for the record as well.
Mr. Riggs. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. Pitts. I believe that the education of America's children is one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation. It is no surprise to this committee that American students are lagging behind the rest of the world in their educational performance. As the President frequently discusses, the recent results of the Third International Math and Science Study highlighted the abysmal performance of U.S. 12th graders as compared to 21 other countries. In this study, the United States outperformed only two countries: Cyprus and South Africa. If Asian nations, which traditionally perform well on these comparisons, had been included, the United States could have been placed at the bottom of a list of more than 40 countries.
As a former math and science teacher myself, as a father of three children who graduated from public schools, I am keenly aware of the issues which face our nation's children and teachers each day. Now, as a member of Congress, I want to work to ensure that the Federal Government, through its web of bureaucracy and unproven programs, does not continue to tie the hands of teachers in classrooms.
We know that effective teaching takes place when we begin helping children master basic academics, when parents are engaged and involved in their children's education, and when a safe and orderly learning environment is created in the classroom and when dollars actually reach the classroom. H.R. 3248 addresses the linchpin of these four key education premises, directing dollars to the classroom so that a teacher, as has been stated, who knows the name of your child, can educate more effectively. As Chairman Goodling earlier mentioned in testimony that I had received, block grants 30--this block grants 30 K-through-12 education programs to the governors, requiring that 95 percent of these funds be directed to local education agencies to be used for classroom activities and services.
Since I introduced this bill, I've received letters from students, teachers, and parents across the country applauding this effort. However, I would like to share an interesting story which demonstrates part of the problem we face in getting dollars to the classroom. Several weeks ago, I contacted a teachers' union in Los Angeles. When the vice president heard what the Dollars to the Classroom Act would do, he immediately replied, and I quote, ``That's fantastic. We've been working on this issue on the State and local level and I'll get someone from our organization to testify at your hearing,'' end quote. His enthusiasm was evident. However, once he consulted with the union leaders, Washington lobbyists, he called back and said that they may not be able to send someone, but could possibly write a letter of recommendation if the lobbyists agreed. Now they will not even return my phone calls.
I believe that this story demonstrates the fundamental battle we're fighting in trying to enact the Dollars to the Classroom Act. Local teachers and parents overwhelmingly favor our efforts, but Washington lobbyists and bureaucrats are fighting to protect themselves. This is a battle pitting children, parents, and local teachers against bureaucrats and lobbyists. Sadly, many in Washington seem to prefer the status quo, which has produced such dismal results for our kids.
Mr. Chairman, I want to share with you the difference the Dollars to the Classroom Act could make for students and teachers in classrooms next year. The Congressional Research Service analyzed the programs included in my bill and found, just in looking at programs which are designed to get dollars to the local level now, that the Dollars to the Classroom Act would direct almost 40 percent more dollars to classroom activities and services. Let me repeat: 40 percent more to a teacher who knows your names--your child's name. And if we also include programs in the block grant which currently do not get any dollars to the classroom, we will send another $1 billion in every classroom in our districts. That's an almost 55 percent increase, giving over $500 dollars more per classroom across America.
This money can be spent to pay for teacher salaries, for training, purchase books, computers, maps, microscopes, or to connect classrooms to the Internet. The point is local teachers and principals can decide how to best spend parents' education tax dollars to serve their students. I know that my children's teachers knew better how to meet their individual educational needs than the Secretary of Education in Washington. Instead of creating and sustaining Federal education programs, we've got to prioritize our spending and direct dollars to the classroom.
Now there have been members who have argued that Republicans do not support public education. I would ask them what could be more pro-public education than giving an extra $500 per classroom? Finally, others will claim that the money we would send to classrooms should stay in Washington-based programs. I would remind them that none of these programs would end under this bill. They would exist if parents and local school officials valued them. This bill will keep the programs which work and leave the choices to parents and teachers. I urge members to support the Dollars to Classroom Act when considered in this committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Representative Pitts. Our next witness is Senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas. He is the Senate sponsor of House Resolution 3248 or the Senate version of House Resolution 3248. He also offered an amendment, expressing the sense of the Senate that 95 percent of Federal education funds reach the classroom, during the recent Senate debate of H.R. 2646 and the Senate debate on the Comprehensive Education Reform legislation, which has now passed the Senate. His Sense of the Senate resolution, I am told, passed unanimously by a vote of 99 to 0. Senator Hutchinson is a member of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources and a former member, or an alumnus as I said earlier, of this committee. And we're delighted to welcome him back to his old stomping grounds today. Senator Hutchinson, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE TIMOTHY HUTCHINSON, A U.S SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Senator Hutchinson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And it's a delight to be back in this hearing room where I've got some fond memories and to see my former chairman, Chairman Ballenger, and many of my other colleagues and friends. So it's great to be back and I thank you for the invitation to testify on this important subject.
Mr. Chairman, while it has been 15 years since this country was alarmed by the seminal publication ``A Nation At Risk,'' which detailed the academic decline of America's educational system. I think there is little doubt that we are still a nation at risk. National literacy is at an all-time low; student performance is stagnating; and, according to the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, our children are sitting at the back of the international classroom academically. Our children are ill-prepared for college, the workforce, and even for everyday life. My written testimony, which I asked to be submitted for the record, details these horrendous facts.
These results are unacceptable. For years the answer to this situation was simple: Create a program for every problem; spend a dollar for every deficiency. In the end, as has been well-reported by this committee, we have been left with a Federal educational system comprised of over 760 Federal educational programs, spread among 39 Federal agencies and departments spending over $100 billion annually, with little actual improvement in student learning.
How can this country spend so much money and get such poor results? The answer is, I believe, two-fold. First, much of this money is eaten up in bureaucracy that's never reaching our children's classroom. And, secondly, we're funding programs that fail to give the discretion on how to use this money to those who know best what our children really need, namely the parents and the teachers.
Just as an example, the chart that we have over on the right shows several examples of how Federal education dollars are spent. The U.S. Department of Education prepares and makes available almost 22,000 publications on various educational topics, including 140 studies on checklists, 100 studies on education researchers researching their research techniques, and even 3 studies entitled, ``Cement: The Concrete Experience.'' We have found that the Department pays to close-caption shows like ``Bay Watch,'' ``Jerry Springer''--a show that was recently dropped by its parent station because of its violent and sexual content. There are even examples of schools using Federal Safe and Drug Free Schools funds to teach fly-fishing, to take retreats at resorts on the Chesapeake Bay, and to buy bicycle pumps. Thanks to the work of this committee and, in particular, to the stellar work of the oversight chairman, Pete Hoekstra, the philosophical debate on the Dollars to the Classroom legislation has been won. In fact, on April 22, 1998, the resolution that the chairman refers to on 95 percent of Federal funds being provided for K through 12 education going actually to the local level for direct use in the classroom, we had a 99 to 0 vote. And, during that debate on this resolution, Senator Kennedy, one I never thought I would perhaps be quoting in this hearing room, Senator Kennedy said, ``Mr. President, those who support the education programs, title I and other programs that will be affected, want the greatest amount of money to go to the local classrooms, so we support this measure. We have no problem whatsoever in supporting this measure.'' Likewise, under the leadership of Representative Pitts, the House passed a similar Dollars to the Classroom Resolution, as you know, by a vote of 310 to 99.
With the philosophical debate won, the question turns to how much of currently appropriated Federal funds currently reach the classroom and how best to increase that amount. A recent Heritage Foundation report estimated that, on average, for every tax dollar sent to Washington for elementary and secondary education, only 85 percent's ever returned to the State through educational programs. On the lower end, States like Connecticut received only 39 cents for every tax dollar it paid. Talk about donor States, that puts it in a new light. Other studies, like the one prepared by the Congressional Research Service, shows that the amount of Federal funds that ultimately reach the classroom vary significantly by program, with one program only getting 65 percent of the funds into the classroom.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that the language in the Dollars to the Classroom Act is an important first step in getting educational decisions out of Washington, into the hands of those closest to the students. When Chairman Hoekstra and I held a Crossroads hearing in Little Rock, Arkansas, we heard lots of testimony on the need to leave decisionmaking to the local communities. We heard of the success of local programs like STRIVE, which brings local businesses, schools and universities together to ensure that schools are teaching the skills necessary for students to succeed. We heard from Governor Huckabee, local superintendents, teachers, and students. In the end, the hearing was best summed up by one school board member in Little Rock who testified, quote, ``If the initiative for improving the schools were shifted to the communities, I believe the people would respond in an even greater fashion.''
To provide a visual picture of what this shifting to the communities would entail, the chart that we have over here shows that if Congress could block-grant each and every dollar slated to be spent on elementary and secondary education, the savings would provide a windfall of $4.5 billion, hundreds of new dollars available to the classroom. If the community felt that this money could best be used to hire new teachers or build new schools, they would have that choice. And I think that's the way it best works.
I want to commend this committee for holding this important hearing and for moving this revolutionary legislation. Chairman Goodling, as a former superintendent and school board member, knows well, more than most, the importance of giving local schools the ability to control their own money. And by passing the Dollars to the Classroom Act, we will have broken away from that old Washington-knows-best mentality.
During the debate that we had on the education bill that Chairman Riggs referred to, the Coverdell legislation in the Senate, there was an eloquent and moving speech that concluded the debate by a Democrat. It was Senator Byrd of West Virginia, who gave a historical account of the development of education and the Federal role in education in this country. And then he said this, he said, ``I have voted for all these programs. I have tried--I have voted for funding; I have voted for the appropriations.'' And then he said, ``Look at the results. Isn't it time we tried something different?'' And, Mr. Chairman, I think he summed it up well.
And I commend this committee. I commend Congressman Pitts for trying to move this in a new direction and to get that decisionmaking--get the classrooms--get the money to the classrooms where it can actually do the good. And so I hope that we'll see this legislation move forward. And I thank you again for the opportunity to testify and I hope the committee will excuse me if I slip back to more familiar haunts these days.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you very much, Senator Hutchinson, and, before you have to go, I just want to ask you one quick question and first note that that's a pretty encouraging sign if Senator Byrd was forswearing any earmarks for West Virginia.
Senator Hutchinson. I quoted two Senators, both of them Democrats, to this.
Mr. Riggs. Yes.
But what I'd like to know, and I think would be of interest to other members of the committee, is how are you working with Senator Gorton on his legislation? Because, as you'll recall, I believe he proposed some sort of a block granting of a number of Federal categorical aid programs for education last year during the annual budget and spending debate on I think it was actually in the context of one of the Appropriations spending bills, probably the one for the Department of Education. So are you working with him and how does your sense of the Senate resolution conform with his proposal?
Senator Hutchinson. Well, that's a great question and our bill mirrors very much Congressman Pitts' legislation, which would allow the governor, as State law would permit, to make those determinations, the educational authority of the States to allocate the funds out to the schools. But I think Senator Gorton has--which in his original proposal would have sent the money directly to the school districts and which I think, conceptually, is wonderful, but ran into a lot of opposition from the governors and from the States. But I think he has made some changes in his proposal which would effectively allow an option for the States, whether it would be--could be sent directly to the school district or whether it would go to the State and so the States would actually have an option on which route they wanted to go on it. And I think there's a movement toward finding common ground on that approach and that really won't be a problem. The Senate will be able to work its will on legislation, I think, that will be acceptable to Congressman Pitts and myself and will achieve our goal of getting the money back to the classroom.
Mr. Clay. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. Riggs. Mr. Clay, do you have a comment or question for Senator Hutchinson?
Mr. Clay. Just a brief observation. If the money went directly to the school district, wouldn't that eliminate a lot of State bureaucracy?
Senator Hutchinson. Well, I think so long as the, you know, the mandate is to get 95 cents to the classroom out of every dollar, that mandate in itself is going to eliminate a lot of bureaucracy. So the passed through--whether it's passed through the State or not, the goal of achieving 95 cents out of dollar into the classroom is what we have to keep, I think, keep the eye on. And it is secondary to me whether it goes directly to the school districts--
Mr. Clay. Possibility--
Senator Hutchinson. --or whether there's a pass-through, as long as the--as we get the maximum amount of dollars into the classroom.
Mr. Clay. If the gentleman would further yield, is it a possibility that 99 cents on the dollar might go, if you sent it directly to the school district instead of to the State?
Senator Hutchinson. I don't know. I think that anytime Washington touches it, you're going to get more than a penny out of the dollar taken out of it. So I'd be kind of skeptical that would ever be achieved. But let me say, I think, as I said in my testimony, the philosophical debate has been won. Now working out the details on how we best get 95 cents out of every dollar or 99 cents out of every dollar to the classroom is what we work on now. And, once again, I think that there is broad consensus that this can be achieved, must be achieved, and that what we're doing now, which we see vast amounts of taxpayers' dollars being siphoned off for some very ridiculous purposes, that that has to end. And that it is time we tried something different and that this is the approach we need to take.
Mr. Clay. Would the gentleman yield for one brief question?
Mr. Riggs. Rather than go to all of the members of the committee, I'd like to respect the time constraints that Senator Hutchinson has and excuse him and then go to Congresswoman DeLauro as our next witness.
Senator Hutchinson. Thank you and thank you for your courtesy.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Senator Hutchinson. Thanks.
Mr. Riggs. Congressman John Tierney, who's a member of this committee was scheduled to testify next, but I'm told he is on his--
Mr. Clay. Yes, he's on the way.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. And we're delighted--I really don't need to refer to any notes to introduce Rosa DeLauro. Way back when, I guess, we were actually classmates. She represents a third district of Connecticut and is a member of the House Appropriations Committee as well as a member of the Democratic Party leadership in the House. We're happy to have her here today.
And, Rosa, please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROSA DELAURO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Ms. DeLauro. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, and I want to say thank you to you and Ranking Member Mr. Clay, the members of the subcommittee. It's a pleasure to be here today to testify before you and to join my colleagues at this table. This is an important topic that we're undertaking today, education block grants and the Dollars to the Classroom Act.
I believe that we have no more important responsibility as a society than to provide all of our children with the opportunity for a good education. Without that education, students will not be equipped to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century. Without that education, our nation cannot prosper economically and provide the standard of living working Americans wish for themselves and for their families. And without that education, a democratic society which entrusts its most important decisions to voting citizens cannot survive.
America's public schools are, and have always been, the foundation of our democratic society. Ninety percent of America's children attend our public schools. And, unfortunately, America's public schools do have difficulties.
Too many schools do not offer safe, quality learning environments for our children. Too many playgrounds are scenes of violence and drug use. Too many teachers do not have the books, the materials, or the training they need to teach to the highest academic standards. And too many classrooms do not have the computers and the technology needed to give children the high-tech skills that they will need to succeed in the 21st century. Too many children are falling through the cracks.
There is only one answer and that is improving accountability. We must ensure that all children learn to high standards, qualified teachers teach in classrooms equipped with up-to-date materials, and that students are required to learn to read, to write, to do math, in order to pass their exams and move on to the next grade.
Our discussion is not truly about block grants versus categorical funding stream. If we fail to require accountability in our education spending, the flow of the money does not matter. The issue at the heart of school performance is accountability.
It is because I believe in accountability that I adamantly oppose this block grant proposal. If you believe that we have done a poor job of holding our public schools accountable so far, you should be very wary of a bill which makes it impossible for Congress or the Department of Education to demand accountability from our schools.
Over the past five years, important work has been done by this committee and other in the Congress and the administration to achieve several goals in education funding: target Federal funds to needy students and schools, rather than giving them to schools and students which already have enough and don't need the extra boost; target funds to quality improvement programs that will fund strong plans to reach high standards; target funds to school plans that ensure high standards; fill in the gaps, such as in technology investment or math and teacher training programs, where State and local school districts couldn't provide the funding needed for quality improvements. And, today, we need to begin to teach teachers about how to teach computer skills to our youngsters.
Block grants move us backward, not forward, in this effort. Under this bill, Federal funding for education would be distributed based on student population, not based on the need for additional funding, poverty rates, having good ideas for making schools work, demonstrating success in improving the educational system, or any other criteria.
Under this bill, the Eisenhower Professional Development program, which supports teacher training in math and in science, would be gone. Under this bill, School-to-Work, which helps young people who are not going on to a four-year liberal arts college. It would help them to realize their dreams and their aspirations in this country. That program would be gone. Under this bill, Safe and Drug Free Schools, which helps makes schools safe for kids to go to school, it allows parents to feel more confident when they put them on the bus every morning, that program would be gone. I might also remind the committee and my colleagues that the Goals 2000 program would be eliminated and that's a program that functions without any Federal regulation.
Under this bill, State governors would be required to report to Congress how they planned to use Federal education dollars. Yet Congress and the Secretary of Education would be unable to hold the governors accountable for the quality of their spending plans. Congress and the Secretary would be prevented from holding the governors accountable for spending the money the way they said that they would. Congress and the Secretary would be prohibited from holding the governors accountable if their spending plans failed to produce student achievement. Congress and the Secretary would be unable to hold the governors accountable under the Government Performance and Results Act, which is just now beginning to give us a picture of the outcomes of our investment in education.
Let me comment on the whole ``harmless'' clause which says it would protect current allocation levels among States. That applies only to the 6 major formula programs of the 30 programs. I might add that that comprises 75 percent of the block funds. In addition, that 95 cents on the dollar drops to 80 percent of the--by the Year 2002, so that, in fact, we could see a State's allocation cut by as much as 50 percent over the next several years. In addition, we do not hold harmless the local school districts. So in fact the State could use that funding for what they wanted to, not pass it onto the school districts, so that local school districts could see the cut happen twice for them.
If our goal is to improve our schools and make sure that our children learn, block grants simply do not make the grade. If we want to improve our schools, let's do it. Let's do it. We have the power to do that and we have the power to do it in this session of the Congress in the next several months.
Congress can make sure that classrooms have the computer technology necessary for our kids to succeed in the 21st century. Congress can reduce the class size and if you want to have the teacher be able to identify your child, decrease that class size, make it smaller, so that our teacher can point to and talk to each and every individual child in that classroom. That's the way to identify our children. And let's help put--have schools put 100,000 more trained, qualified teachers in the classroom so that every young child can receive the individualized attention and discipline that he or she needs. Congress can support meaningful, voluntary national academic standards and grants that allow every school district to devise that strategy that is going to work best with its own students. These are the initiatives; these are the ways in which we can provide a learning environment so our kids can succeed in the 21st century.
Block grants will make holding schools accountable for providing a quality education for every single child in this country much more difficult to achieve. I urge my colleagues. Let's work together. Let's work in a bipartisan way. Let's pass legislation that in fact will truly improve America's schools and give our kids the attention they deserve. I'm going to borrow a quote from a colleague as well, Mr. Chairman. My colleague in the Senate, Senator Dodd, who says that 27 percent of the population are children and they are, yes, 100 percent of the future of this country. Let's focus our time and attention on making sure that they have the opportunities that they need. I thank you for letting me come before the committee today.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Representative DeLauro.
We're pleased to welcome a colleague from the committee, a very active member of the committee, the Congressman John Tierney of the Sixth District of Massachusetts. John, while you were gone, I believe that Rosa used your allotted time.
I believe I heard that--
Mr. Tierney. I was going to rest my case anyway.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you for making that--whispering that aside to me. Thank you for taking the role of witness today. We look forward to your comments. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHN TIERNEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. Tierney. Thank you very much, Mr. Riggs, Mr. Clay, other members of the committee. I do rest my case on much of what Rosa said. I think she always addresses us so eloquently. I want to thank all of you for putting your attention on this matter and probably a lot of what I'm going to say may second some of what Rosa said.
You know, the real question here is how do we best effectively meet the national objectives for elementary and secondary education in this country? And I'm perfectly willing, as I suspect all of my colleagues are, to talk about block grants, if that's what you want to do; to talk about any improvements that might be made in the categorical types of programs, the approach that we have now. But that's in fact what this committee would be for, some extensive hearings, much longer than a single hearing, with some experts in the area with a lot of information and historical perspective so that we can look forward on what we want to do to change, if we want to change, and do it in the right way.
However, I see the proposals before us today as an indication or somebody speaking out saying they don't like all of what they see in our current attitude or treatment, but I don't think, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, that it really lays out for us the path that we want to proceed, going forward into the future on this.
We have current programs that are focused on specific matters, for instance, student population groups with special needs. That might be the disabled or the educationally disadvantaged, those with limited English proficiency. We focus on priority subject areas whether it be math or science or on educational concepts or techniques, like charter schools or school-to-career or comprehensive schools. All of our current programs have, in fact, evolved over a period of time that students or LEA'S were either perceived or actually unwilling or unable, for financial or other reasons, to address these particular needs or priorities.
You know, we have 435 representatives down here at any given time and we actually represent a smaller area than any one of those governors. We talk to more schools, more school districts, more parents, more teachers, more administrators, more business people in the community, people that have more direct access and contact with these schools, I suspect, on a more regular basis. And, after debate and deliberation, this body decided that these categorical approaches were the way to proceed to take care of the priorities that we had targeted because they weren't being done locally.
And I think it would be foolish to say that the original categorical program approach can't be improved. Certainly we could do that and that's the role of this committee and I suggest we get to work doing it to make sure that any of the comments about it being fragmented--our approach--or not coordinated enough, that we deal with that. Others suspect that the growing number of programs sometimes are duplicative and if that's the situation, we ought to deal with that. It'll take some time, but we have the time for that. Still others are concerned that each program may affect only a small part of what a student does in the total balance of their day or time spent in school and we ought to take a look at that to make sure that that is all coordinated properly and balanced.
And, obviously, we should be concerned with all of those things and how we proceed, but there's no showing that block grants is the answer. I see no evidence and, in fact, I see some indications to the contrary, that block grants are going to be the answer to that situation. We have the potential through block grants to divert monies from the priorities and the goals and the objectives that we set out federally and that's not what I think this committee ought to be about. There's no accountability in these block grant proposals that are before us today. They don't indicate whether or not we're going to have any accountability that there'll be performance, to the degree that we want performance, and there's no accountability there that the total amount of money being spent on education at the State or local education agency level is not going to be reduced. I don't think that's the intent of anybody on this committee that we reduce those expenditures.
I think what we have to do is try to see if there's any area where block grants make sense. To me, throwing everything into a single block grant makes it obvious that we're heading on a path to perhaps make sure that we don't have some of these purposes and goals met and that we sort of dilute the purposes of what we set out to do. But there may be some instances where some duplicative programs might be put together and those would be programs that make sense together whether they deal--programs with math or all programs with technology or something that could be put together.
For, simply, there are a number of programs that I think stand on their own quite well and, because my time is running out, let me just highlight one and that would be the Comprehensive School program. If we really want to deal in improving our schools, instead of debating vouchers or debating this idea of block grants without having the accountability question answered and a number of other questions, let's talk about making sure that schools and school districts get the resources they need to deal with the issues that we all point out: size of the classroom; defining admission for that school; getting an entrepreneurial principal who knows how to reach out to other people in the community, bringing in parents, bringing the unions back to the table to renegotiate where that's necessary and appropriate, talking about getting volunteers in the business community, as well as others, in to help out, measuring the success of the path of these programs as they move forward; and giving them the tools in each public school and public school district to make that public school as good as the already excellent ones we have. And the Comprehensive School program lays out some 1,200 schools across this country that have succeeded with that; that have hooked up with an educational institution of higher education; that have research-based initiatives that work.
We can do that as a committee. We can make sure that every public school is as good as our very best public school. And, in all instances, we should make sure that what we do here at the Federal level is what's accomplished at the local level; that we have that accountability and that we spend the money here, it's added to, not subtracted from, what's being done locally.
And, again and finally, we should make sure that politics doesn't enter at the local level. Let the local education agency be the one that distributes the funds and allocates it locally, because those State legislatures have identified that group as the party or the body that is best suited to make those decisions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, members.
Mr. Riggs. Congressman Tierney, thank you very much. And if you'll remain there, please, so that members will have the opportunity to pose questions to you.
Mr. Tierney. Mr. Chairman, might I just add one last thing here that lays out--
Mr. Riggs. Of course.
Mr. Tierney. I would like to enter onto the record, if there's no objection, a letter dated April 20, 1998, to Mr. Gephardt and a separate letter to Mr. Gingrich, one to Mr. Lott and one to Mr. Daschle, has the signature of 180 members of the House of Representatives that object to block grants. And I would like to submit that for the record to show that we're not alone in this observation, that there are a fair number of our members who think that this particular bill and the concept of block grants has not been thought through to the extent that we want to proceed with it at this time.
Mr. Riggs. Very good. Without objection, it's so ordered.
Mr. Riggs. And let me just thank both of you for testifying today and stipulate that we can probably agree on the keys to academic success and improving pupil performance. I think they're pretty well established. And they are good teachers; an emphasis on the basics, the core academic subjects; as Congresswoman DeLauro pointed out, making sure that every child has access to and instruction in technology; and, lastly, making sure that schools are accountable. It's how we go about achieving those goals where I think we may disagree, particularly with respect to the last goal, holding or making schools more accountable, because I think, ultimately, you have to make them--the only way to make them more accountable to parents is to give parents the full range of choice among all competing institutions. But that's--we've had that debate several times and I'm sure it's--
Mr. Tierney. So we don't get another five minutes on that one, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Riggs. Yes.
Ms. DeLauro. We're happy to talk about that, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Let me ask you, though, a question point-blank before I turn to Joe. And that is, I believe there may be some basis for bipartisan agreement in this Congress on the idea of granting local school districts, local educational agencies, more regulatory waivers. I believe the administration's put forward their own proposal in this area, called EdFlex. And I had an opportunity to speak to the assistant secretary, whose last name is escaping me here for just a moment. Help me out, please. Assistant Secretary Tirrozi--
Ms. DeLauro. Tirrozi.
Mr. Riggs. Assistant Secretary Tirrozi a few weeks ago and we agreed to try to work collaboratively on that. Do you support--for both of you--do you support the idea of EdFlex, granting more regulatory waivers to State and local educational agencies and, if so, how do you reconcile that with your concerns about accountability?
Mr. Tierney. Well, I think you go right to the heart of it. I think that what the Department's talking about, from my discussions with them and, certainly, we should bring them in to talk for themselves, any flexibility that they're giving to local entities is tied in with an accountability aspect to it and provisions and regulations that would have to be some reflection of what's being accomplished and to make sure that what we're setting out to do is actually being done. So I think they--to the extent that you can tie them in, you know, without creating the problem that you're trying to address, then there's a potential for that there. But I think the flexibility always comes back that it doesn't serve us in our responsibilities as Federal officers appropriating money for goals we've identified unless that flexibility is accompanied by some assurances or some mechanism for assuring that those goals and priorities are being met.
Mr. Riggs. And you don't think that those two goals are contradictory in the sense that--
Mr. Tierney. No, I'm not saying I don't. I'm saying that they would have to somehow tie together. I've not seen a proposal that works that out that you might be satisfied and I might be satisfied with. I'm not willing to give up the accountability aspect of it. I think that abdicates our responsibility. I'm perfectly willing to talk about more flexibility and proposals as to how that might be done.
Mr. Riggs. Okay.
Mr. Tierney. I don't think we should close our mind on that.
Mr. Riggs. I'll ask the staff to check on this, perhaps, before we conclude today's hearing, but I think, specifically, those regulatory waivers might be focused on the title I compensatory education program. But Congresswoman DeLauro.
Ms. DeLauro. I will associate my comments with my colleague's, Mr. Tierney. I would just say this, that it is a--no one is suggesting that the Federal Government must do everything. That is not what the issue is here. And, first of all, what it's interesting to note, that the Federal Government contributes about 7 percent of the money that is spent on education. I mean, 7 percent of all of the money spent on education comes from the Federal Government.
The point is, and I will reiterate, that the Federal Government cannot do everything. But, in fact, in my view, the Federal Government does have a responsibility in order to provide the tools of opportunity in an effort that people may meet the challenges that they face in their lives, and that's our kids in schools, that's with regard to health care, with other areas. Now, we have, not I think the appropriate for the Federal Government, which, I think at some point, what is--the debate may be about, ultimately.
But, in providing those tools of opportunity, I might add and say, that we also need to have accountability be in so that we, in fact, have some measures by which those tools of opportunity are being judged and if they are working. And, you know, there can be the view and the look at how we can be flexible in some of these areas and work on the flexibility but, above all--and I concur with my colleague from Massachusetts--that we abdicate our responsibility when we do not have a process which allows us to be able to get some sense as to whether or not what we are doing, whatever fashion that we are doing it, that we build in the accountability. And there isn't any accountability in this piece of legislation.
Mr. Riggs. All right, well let's--
Mr. Tierney. Excuse me, if I might close notably on that, besides, you know, there being no accountability for determining whether or not money would be added on that to educational money and being no accountability that to see whether or not these programs were being performed the way you wanted them to perform, there's absolutely, in my reading of the bill, no consequence for failing to meet any particular goal or for doing any particular responsibility. I'm surprised and I'd be surprised that the chairman himself who would really continence that in the overall program that would have no way of determining when it was that would turn off the spigot of funds going out, if we came to feel that those monies were being misappropriated or diverted to someplace other than where we had intended or not having the performance result that we wanted.
Mr. Riggs. I wanted, while I still have some time, if I may, pose a couple of questions to Congressman Pitts. But let me just observe, I would be completely comfortable with the idea of those tax dollars staying in the local community to begin with, not having to come to Washington and be recycled through the bureaucracy. But that's, again, a separate subject.
Congressman Pitts, I understand that the bill before the full committee, H.R. 3248 the Dollars to the Classroom Act, effectively codifies the Dollars to the Classroom Resolution, which was approved overwhelmingly by a vote of 310 to 99 by the House of Representatives last October 29th, October 29th of 1997. Is that correct?
Mr. Pitts. That's correct. It's a little bit different. We only take 30 programs. We do not touch title I, Special Ed, Migrant Ed, Voc Ed.
Mr. Riggs. Hey. Excuse me. Just a moment. Let me see if I can get regular order here. Out of respect and courtesy for our colleagues, I think we ought to refrain from engaging in conversations. They could more appropriately be carried on in the cloakrooms. Please continue.
Mr. Pitts. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We do not address title I, Special Ed, Migrant Ed, or Voc Ed. But we take 30 different programs and block-grant those monies to the States.
Mr. Riggs. Well, let me ask you, how did you pick the, I believe it's 35, programs to be consolidated into the block grant? And how do you respond to the concerns of Congressman Tierney and Congresswoman DeLauro that these funds, by being block-granted to the States and to local school districts, how do you respond to their concerns about accountability?
Mr. Pitts. Well, as you know, the Act requires that the States ensure that 95 cents of every one of these Federal dollars of the 30-some programs that are block-granted to the States are directed to the local education agencies. And they're to be used for classroom activities and services. Further, we require the governors to submit to the House and the Senate the definition of these classroom activities and services as the funds will be used in this bill. So most of the burden is placed on the States to keep the locals accountable. States and local education agencies are given the freedom to develop their own system of accountability. I believe that if we get the dollars, drive them to the local school districts, and we require, by law, that 95 cents has to be spent on classroom activities and services, that they'll be spent as such. However, if the system does not work as intended, we may have to come back at a later date and talk about penalties or find another method of accountability. I happen to believe that if the States, the governors, come up with this definition--and, of course, they're responding back to us within 60 days, so we see the definitions, and it might be salaries, teachers' salaries, if they want additional teacher or teacher aides, equipment, books, computers, supplies. Anything that is occurring in the classroom where the action is, then we can take a look at that definition at a later date. But I happen to believe that they will keep the intent of the law, that this will free more money in the classroom activities to be spent on the priorities that the local school districts know--
Mr. Riggs. Well, let me see if I can just reiterate for a moment what you just said, Congressman Pitts, and that is that your bill, the bill before the committee, will consolidate 35 Federal education programs, totaling in current appropriations or current funding $3.37 billion, and send that money in a block grant to the States. But you specifically excluded from the block grant title I; IDEA, the Federal Special Education Statute; Even Start; Migrant Education; title I Neglected and Delinquent; Vocational Education; Impact Aid; Bilingual Education; and Adult Education. Now, with one caveat and that is, although title I is not part of the block grant, I'm informed that your bill does include a section on title I which requires that school districts that receive title I funding for compensatory education for socio-economically disadvantaged children use at least 95 percent of their title I funds for classroom activities and services that the school district deems appropriate. That's an accurate description?
Mr. Pitts. That is correct. That is correct, because we received testimony from the Department that they were exceeding the 95 percent ratio with title I. They claim they got 97.5 percent and so I don't think they would object to meeting that standard of 95 cents. But we don't block-grant that money along with the others. We leave that funding stream alone.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. And one other quick question, and that is, how did you establish the formula for the block grant and did you take into account poverty and, if not, why not?
Mr. Pitts. No. Poverty--I think poverty factors should be considered when you're trying to direct money for poverty purposes. The intent of this is to help all students so we do it based on population, a formula based on population.
Mr. Riggs. Okay.
Mr. Pitts. We don't have a poverty factor.
Mr. Riggs. That would be the school-aged population, student population in grades K through 12?
Mr. Pitts. That's correct.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. Thank you.
Ms. DeLauro. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Yes.
Ms. DeLauro. If I might, I'd like to just, I think, for the record, it's important, two or three things. There was a 1994 GAO Report, confirmed that of all Federal funds allocated through State agencies over 98 percent reached the local level, because that's been discussed here today. Secondly, that the governor, as I've been stated, will decided what activities qualify I hear, not local school districts, not State legislatures, or not the State department of education. So there is nothing that's built in here that deals with those entities in being able to determine what the activities should be.
Finally, if I can just very, very quickly reiterate, I think it's important to note, on the hold harmless assurances, that that applies to only 6 of the major formula programs of the 30 that are going to be block-granted. It does not remain constant over the years. It declines from 95 percent to 80 percent in the Year 2002 and, in fact, for local districts there is no hold harmless. I think that those are important issues if we are going to talk about local decisions being made here and local interests being represented. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Congressman Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Pitts, do I understand this right, there's no new money in this; we're just shifting around the money that's already there?
Mr. Pitts. That is correct. There's not new money. It is a realignment, if you will, with block-granting certain programs--
Mr. Scott. So would that--
Mr. Pitts. --with more money, as a result, being--getting into classroom activities, less money being spent on bureaucracy. If you look at those programs and the average amount--the amount of money getting into classroom activities, you see various numbers, 65 percent--
Mr. Scott. Okay. If we just go to the 98 percent.
Mr. Pitts. That's title I. We exempt title I, 98 percent.
Mr. Scott. Okay.
Mr. Pitts. But if you take other programs which maybe only 39 percent or 65 percent or 85 percent get to classroom activities and you block-grant those funds and get 95 cents of those monies into classrooms, you're getting more money into classroom activities.
Mr. Scott. Well, it depends because if you're talking about doing a computer program, you can do that at the State capital or in Washington and do one program and send out a lot of disks and all of the expense would have been done in Washington. Or you can send the money to everybody and let them hire their own computer programmers and figure out, you know, how this thing works and waste ten times more money because they are trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of things can be done more efficiently on a centralized basis, isn't that true?
Mr. Pitts. Well, I happen to believe that local officials can make better decisions about their needs and their priorities as they see--
Mr. Scott. No, I'm saying some things can be done better on a centralized basis because you only have to do it once than 1,500 separate school districts and so many thousands times that schools trying to do the same thing over and over again. Some of them might get it first time; some of them might not. It would've been easier if they could have gotten a computer disk with the thing already figured out.
Mr. Pitts. Well, I personally think that we know what kids need to be learning in classrooms and I think the teachers--
Mr. Scott. You see no value in a centralized research, centralized computerized program?
Mr. Pitts. Perhaps there are some things that need to be done on a more centralized effort--
Mr. Scott. Okay, that's where it--
Mr. Pitts. --but I would say that most teachers understand how to teach kids and they know what their needs are. And if it's books that don't have covers or they don't have computer programs for maps or--
Mr. Scott. Okay, let's stop right at the computer program. If the teacher knows that you need a computer program, how will she know what computer program to get?
Mr. Pitts. Well, I certainly think the capability exists in our local school districts that they know what kind of computer programs they need.
Mr. Scott. And each school district would have to figure that out themselves, rather than have a centralized office go through all the possibilities, go through bids and compatibilities and what computer you need for which different program. Let me do a little arithmetic. Now how much money will the Department of Education's--the Federal Department of Education use up out of the dollar when it leaves the State--the U.S. Treasury? Will the Department of Education be able to have any administrative funds?
Mr. Pitts. Which department? Federal Department?
Mr. Scott. U.S., yes.
Mr. Pitts. Of which funds?
Mr. Scott. This block grant.
Mr. Pitts. Well, I mean, you're only talking 30 block grant--30 programs here. There are hundreds of various programs--
Mr. Scott. Under your bill, will the Department of Education have any administrative--be able to use any of these funds for administrative purposes?
Mr. Pitts. Under our bill, those 30 programs would be block-granted to the States and the State would be able to use 4 percent; the local education agency would be able to use 1 percent. 95 percent would have to get into classroom activities.
Mr. Scott. Would the U.S. Department of Education be able to use any of the money for administrative purposes?
Mr. Pitts. From which--all of these programs?
Mr. Scott. Under your bill.
Mr. Pitts. No, these programs would be block-granted to the States.
Mr. Scott. So there'll be no oversight as Mr. Tierney and Ms. DeLauro have suggested.
Mr. Pitts. Well, they certainly get enough other programs and funds that I think there'll be some oversight.
Mr. Scott. Since there's no new money and we're just shifting the same money around, Mr. Riggs asked you about the poverty factor. Why are we taking money from the poor to give to the rich?
Mr. Pitts. Well, as I said, if poverty--I think poverty should be a factor when you're talking about Federal education programs such as title I which is aimed at helping poor students, and that is the case. But with the Dollars to the Classroom Act, which block-grants programs that are not benefit--not aimed at benefiting only poor students, but benefiting all students, we don't have poverty as a factor. We have strictly a population-based distribution of funds.
Mr. Scott. So you don't deny that you're taking money from poor areas and giving them to the more wealthy.
Mr. Pitts. Well, we're not touching title I, as I said. Poverty's still a factor with title I.
Mr. Scott. Now, since we don't have any new money, we're going to be doing some things under the new plan that you're not doing now. We'll not be doing Goals 2000 planning if this bill passes?
Mr. Pitts. It depends on what the local education agency, the local school districts, the local teachers desire and think are their priorities. If they want to put money into certain programs that are related to classroom activity, they will be able to do that and they'll have more money to do it.
Mr. Scott. You've block-granted the professional training. Is that better done at the local level or on a regional or national level?
Mr. Pitts. Well, money is certainly still available for teacher training. However, instead of having the professional development money controlled by the producers, that is the Federal Government program, control of the money, I think now, is being switched under this bill to the consumers, the teachers and the schools. And, certainly, the schools and the local teachers can decide if they want further professional development, they're smart enough to know their needs and they certainly will do that. I think they will certainly spend the type of resources necessary for teacher training.
Mr. Scott. And if I could ask one more quick question. The--as I understand it in the bill, you do not have the language that's normally in bills like this that the money is to supplement and not supplant. Is there any protection against a school district just using this money to replace money that's already being spent and therefore not doing any good that wouldn't otherwise have been done anyway?
Mr. Pitts. Well, if you're talking about the hold harmless provision?
Mr. Scott. No, the supplement not supplant. A lot of times when we fund a program, what the local agency does, if they've got $1 million budget, you give them $100,000, they'll spend $1 million the next year and cut taxes $100,000, so that the student doesn't end up any better off than they were before we appropriated $100,000.
Mr. Pitts. If you look at the average school district budget, most of the money comes from the State and local level. Only on an average of about 6 to 7 percent comes from the Federal Government. Some of our school districts don't even use Federal funds. My own superintendent presented testimony last year. He brought a packet and these are just samples of some of those studies listed on the chart, but he brought packet about that thick. He said this is a grant application for Federal funds. He said, I don't even bother filling it out. Takes me five months before I know whether I can even get a dime and, if I do get it, my administrative overhead to monitor and the paperwork requirements are so severe that it's not really worth my time.
So I think, by driving this money down to the local level, you're going to free up more funds for the local school districts and their priorities. I think they will be much more interested in spending the money effectively to give the kids whom they care about--and that's what this is about. That's about these kids and the kind of education they're getting. They care and they're going to spend those resources on methods and procedures and expenses that effect the classroom, where the action is.
Mr. Scott. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Scott. Congressman Ballenger, do you seek recognition for this panel of witnesses, our colleagues?
Mr. Ballenger. If I may, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Riggs. Yes.
Mr. Ballenger. I'm just curious, having been a county commissioner responsible for the funding of the school system back home and the way it operates and I think that Congressman Tierney and DeLauro both, their major point was accountability. And I was sitting here thinking, especially living here in Washington, D.C., with all the great and wonderful systems that we've got, who measures accountability now?
And then you look at the Washington, D.C., schools at the present time and they're spending substantial amounts of Federal money, I'm sure, but is there anybody that measures the accountability of the school system here to deliver education to the students? And I think this probably holds true in most areas of the country. You fill out a whole bunch of paperwork, as you say, when you apply for these Federal grants, that take forever and then you fill out a whole bunch of paperwork to prove that you're accountable. But, in reality, I think--I don't know why we don't trust the local school boards and the State legislators as being just as--they care just as much about the education of their children as we in Washington do. And yet they're close enough, especially the local school boards, they're close enough to realize that this money--I mean, if I don't need the money for an Eisenhower grant, but I need it to somehow have some special reading programs in the school system, but I can't use the money because the Federal Government says it has to be spent this way, when I'd like to be able to spend it that way.
Mr. Pitts. I think that we ought to make them accountable to the parents, not the Federal bureaucrats.
Mr. Ballenger. Right.
Mr. Pitts. And the parents deserve some accountability and the parents are closest to the local schools and they'll make sure that the money is spent, if they get additional money, on things that benefit the kids. Not things like this: Channeling Your Donna Reed Syndrome. We spent Federal tax dollars on these studies: the Ninjas, the X-Men and the Ladies, Playing with Power and Identity in the Urban Primary School. We got over 21,000 studies here that we spent Federal tax dollars on. We got programs like close-captioning for Jerry Springer's show. Federal tax dollars being used for that.
Why don't we spend it in the classroom on teacher salaries, teacher aides, equipment, books, supplies, things that's going to affect our kids' education.
Mr. Ballenger. I think another one that--Chairman Goodling's not here, but one of his pet peeves is the fact that we mandated IDEA from the local school boards that everybody must attend and we mandated that they had to spend the money for these purposes and we said that we had given them at least 50 percent of the money. We're now all the way up to 7 percent. Now, if you took every penny that we're talking about that they might be able to get by mandating the money go back to the local level, we might honestly give them almost as much money as we promised them when we passed the IDEA program.
A government mandate without funds, which I think you could check every one of these things, and you count the number of people that live in the building down here called the Education Department, that have to check the paperwork. That paperwork right there has got to be at least five or six people--all they do is read that stuff and see--maybe they put it into a computer so they can get a program and show them some kind of graph. But the basic idea that--you're program is so practical that, in reality, the people that you should trust with the education of our children are the mothers and fathers who will, if there's a real accountability, find a school board that doesn't get kicked out--that doesn't live in Washington, D.C. One that's actually in the boondocks that says they're not teaching my kids; we're going to get somebody else to run for the school board.
Mr. Pitts. And I think you can trust the teachers. I had a town meeting last week in Lancaster County and I told them that we're going to have this hearing; I was going to be presenting testimony and I had, after the town meeting, a local public school teacher come up to me and he said, Now let me tell you something and you can tell your committee in Washington this. He said, I don't see one dime of Federal tax money in my classroom. I see nothing that the Federal Department of Education does for me. You tell them that I said we want more dollars into classroom activity. I mean he was just off the cuff making that kind of statement. But I think you'll find a lot of teachers who take money out of their own pocket to help provide equipment and supplies in school districts, in classrooms, that would really appreciate getting more money driven down to the local level.
Ms. DeLauro. If I might make a couple of comments, because--
Mr. Ballenger. Could I just finish, because my clock's about to run out?
Ms. DeLauro. Oh, sure, sure.
Mr. Ballenger. But the basic thing I was thinking is for us in Washington to say that what is necessary out of these programs for Connecticut or Massachusetts is the same thing that we should have for Mississippi or Alabama just doesn't make sense and the same thing would hold true that what's proper for Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and they're great cosmopolitan areas, isn't equal to the same thing that we should apply for the Appalachian Mountains or the Outer Banks. One shoe fits all is wrong.
Ms. DeLauro. Listen, I happen to agree with you. You asked a question earlier on where you talked about evaluation. I sit on the Appropriations Committee, as you know, and every--on the Labor, Education, Health and Human Services Subcommittee. And every single department that comes before us, we ask them the questions about the Government Performance and Results Act. Why do we have a Government Performance and Results Act if we do not believe we ought to be involved in overseeing any of these programs? Let's throw it out. It would take less time to have these agencies come up before us and to ask them to evaluate their performance. They are giving money out, what is the result? So we have passed a piece of legislation here, if we think it is not worthy or not worthwhile, let us undo it and be--and just be true and consistent about how we view things here in Washington. Rescind it and don't bother with it anymore rather than going through the charade of asking these people to account, to put on new people, to evaluate, what are your outcomes. I sit for hours and hours in committee hearings. The second point, and it would be lovely, school districts ought to make determinations about what's going on. The very fact of the matter on this bill, the only person who decides, the only person who decides on what goes into this plan is the governor. No local districts, no local school boards, no State legislatures, and not State Department of Education. If we truly believe in that the local community ought to be making these decisions, why is it not built into this piece of legislation that they ought to have a role in this effort. And if the response is that the governor will have to go to the cities and towns, I will give you my State of Connecticut where the people in Greenwich will be doing one thing and the folks in New Haven are not getting the same--what they need to be equalized about what's going on in different parts of the State.
Many of you who sit here that those of us have worked in local government. And the local government is always concerned that, in fact, their views, their needs are not being taken into consideration by the governor of the State and this bill--
Mr. Ballenger. Or the Federal Government as well.
Ms. DeLauro. --only makes--oh, no question about that. No question about that. But this bill specifically outlines one individual, one individual to make the decision on this thing. Let's rewrite the bill. Let's have local districts put in their views on this.
Mr. Tierney. Mr. Chairman, if I might, I hope that that's what we're about is coming to some rewrite of the bill of those parts that people don't think direct us where we want to go. But those are very heartwarming stories about teachers who have to put up their own money. I know some who do also.
But I don't it's the Federal Government that causes that. I'd like a nickel for every governor who now claims to have a surplus while his teachers are putting money into the classroom, while his students are going without the right types of books in the classroom, while some of the schools are crumbling down. I mean, if we want to take on the Federal Government, it's not the Federal Government programs, that's where we traditionally step forward is when those needs are unmet and then nationally we take the responsibility on to see if we can't do something about those unmet needs that local people are asking for.
Mr. Ballenger. If I might ask, and ask this of Congressman Pitts, if 95 percent of the money has to go to the classroom, it goes through the governor and the governor says something--I haven't read the bill that closely. But if it goes through the governor, does he tell everybody how to spend that 95 cents?
Mr. Pitts. The governor's required to come up with the definition of classroom activities and services and report back to this committee in 60 days on that definition. Now we could write the definition right here in the legislation. If you want to write the definition of classroom activities, we could do that. The idea was to give them the flexibility to write the definition of classroom activities and then monitor it. But it could be done either way.
Mr. Riggs. I want to--
Mr. Ballenger. Thank you.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Ballenger, and I want to just at this point notify my colleagues that we have a second and very full panel of witnesses waiting patiently, some of which have time constraints of their own or traveling or other scheduling commitments, so I'd like to, as closely as possible, adhere to the five minute rule from here on out for this panel of witnesses. Now, Congressman Miller, do you have questions, comments for this panel, our colleagues?
Mr. Miller. Just quickly, and I apologize that I had to duck out after we started, but we had a suspension on the Floor. But, first of all, you know we constantly use IDEA as some kind of mandate. Let's remember that, before we did education to the handicapped, as it was called in 1975, the local people weren't doing anything. They were expelling these children from school. They were educating them in basements. They were excluding them from all educational programs. That's what the Supreme Court lawsuits were about. Local people were doing nothing. If it cost them any extra effort, kids were excluded from school.
And, finally, let me say I appreciate all this business people in local government know best. How come our school systems are in such a mess, then? Because we don't make decision one. We don't make decision one. You're telling me you want to give more responsibility to the same people who are making the decisions that you go around condemning as an educational system as a whole. Maybe there is a reason here.
Thirdly, I'd say that Federal dollars have dramatically closed the gap between rich and poor schools in some States. Because we also know how States and local governments spend their money. They don't spend it on poor children, they don't spend it in poor neighborhoods, they don't spend in those educational programs for those who need it the most. So I mean there's a few things to keep your eye on the ball here. It's all not sweetness and honey at the local level. Member after member, cosponsor after cosponsor of this legislation gets up on the Floor and condemns the educational system in this country and then says we ought to give the very same people more responsibility to run it.
And this isn't the work of Federal bureaucrats. These laws were written by the Congress of the United States. We were elected by the same local people. And we made a national decision. We'd like to try some national programs. We'd like to make sure that handicapped children are covered. We'd like to make sure that poor children have a chance. We'd like to make sure that disabled children have an opportunity. Those are national decisions that we made as representatives of local people. You act like somehow this all dropped in from Mars and now there's just some pointy headed bureaucrats that want to do it.
Now Congress may change all those mandates. We just did education for the handicapped or IDEA, as it's now called, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And we did it by a consensus. I think there was 1 vote out of 535 against it. And now we're condemning it. So I think there's a lot of rhetoric here that doesn't match what the actual situation is on the ground with respect to what's going on in education. And the Federal Government tries to feed some kids who can't afford decent nutrition, we try to educate some handicapped kids, and we try to provide some balancing out for poor children. And after that, there's not much money left over. And we try to do some programs of national importance in terms of teacher training and skills and looking at programs that may be more effective with children. And after that, it's about over, as we keep saying on this committee all the time, we do 1 out of 10 dollars.
Mr. Fattah. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Miller. So we're not steering this ship with that one dollar, ladies and gentlemen, but we certainly want to pretend like all the fault belongs in Washington or the problems were created here. That one dollar's not moving this ship to that degree.
Mr. Fattah. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. Miller. Yes, who's asking? Oh, yes, excuse me, yes, Chaka.
Mr. Fattah. Following up on this thinking here, I want to ask the gentleman, Mr. Tierney, a question because it gets to the point that he's making about the State's decisionmaking process as it exists now. In 49 out of our 50 States, today, you can go and you can see from school district to school district wide disparities in what's invested in a child's education.
In my home State, we have some 195 school districts, including some in my colleague's district, who have sued the State government because of the inequalities in our State financing system. We have school districts where we're spending three times as much on one first grade student as another first grade student in another district and if we were to give them this block granting authority, how would that improve these kinds of circumstances in which seemingly the State government finds it perfectly okay?
We had a committee hearing in which the secretary of education from our State testified. I asked him--and Chairman Goodling was here and a number of other members were here--how much were we spending in our lowest per-pupil expenditure school district and he said he didn't know. And how much were we spending in the richest? And he said he didn't know.
Well, in Pennsylvania, we can go from $4,000 per student to upwards of $16,000 per student. So we had a disparity and if you played that out over 12 years of a child's education, then you're talking about a very wide level of investment difference between these two students. And then we have them take the SAT and apply to Penn State or Temple University and we're surprised that there's some differential in perhaps some of the kids when they come from Pottstown versus Radnor. I'd be interested in your response.
Mr. Tierney. Well, I think that you've hit it right on the head and this is, in fact, the case in a lot of States and within each State.
But the other thing is if we really wanted to talk about doing something meaningful in education, we would in fact talk about the equitable or inequitable way that we finance education in State after State. Too often we rely on the property taxes. I think that we can all do better. I think that if this committee wanted to spend some good time talking about how we make sure that every student in this country has an opportunity to move forward, we start looking at some of the broader issues like how do we fund our schools. And it's legislation I know that's been presented in the Senate at one point in time and, Mr. Fattah, you may have a piece of legislation that is out on that.
I'd like to see us allocate some of our time on issues of that magnitude that will truly have some significance and may change, truly, at the Federal level, we may have some way to change it. As Mr. Miller says, the one dollar that we're talking about is not moving that, but a discussion and some resolution of how we currently inequitably fund our education systems might be something that both sides of this aisle could sink their teeth into and probably come up with some good recommendations.
Mr. Pitts. If I can comment on his comments. In Pennsylvania, we have 501 school districts and 150 initiated suit--it might be up to 195 now--suing the State because they say the amount of money given to the local school districts from the State was inequitable. The basis of their suit was this: In my school district, which is considered a wealthy district, based on income and market value, what they use for measuring wealth, we spend perhaps, what, $9,500 per student? Around $9,000 per student, educating our kids per year. We're--since we're wealthy con--we have a very low aid ratio, we may only get $495 from the State per year in our subsidy. But schools--the 150 schools suing are considered poor. They may get 10 times that amount in State subsidy. They may get $3,000 or $3,500 per student from the State, but they can only spend say $6,000 or $7,000--in the case of Philadelphia, I think around $7,000 per student. So they're suing the State because they can't spend the $9,000 per student.
Now, when we were arguing in Appropriations trying to get a little bit more money to our school district, we said just give us 1 percent. You know, 1 percent of nothing's nothing, but 1 percent of $495's a little bit. Just give us 1 percent. And those schools opposed us. They didn't want to give us any increase. They wanted to give us less than we're getting. So they sued the State.
And what this money--what this bill does, although it's not a lot, Federal funds are not a large percentage, it drives a little bit of money into every school district. It'll be allocated on the basis of population.
Mr. Fattah. You mean it would drive money into some of the wealthier districts?
Mr. Pitts. All school districts, wealthy and poor.
Mr. Riggs. All right, Congressman Miller's time has expired. And then, Congressman Barrett, you're recognized.
Mr. Barrett. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Very quickly, may I say that the testimony from the panel, I thought, was excellent. And the subsequent discussion has been very good as well. Appreciate it very much. Congressman Pitts, I guess there's no question at this point that the Federal money goes to the governor and then he gives it to the State school officer, whoever that may be. Well, it occurred to me during the conversation that our Nebraska State constitution requires that the independently-selected State school commissioner handle all of the money, and not the governor. And I daresay that this is--we're not, perhaps, the only State that would operate in this manner. Therefore, would you, as the author of the bill, be--well, first of all, recognizing that technicality, and secondly, would you be willing to change the bill in some way to accommodate that problem?
Mr. Pitts. I'm informed by our staff that the bill states that they must comply with the State constitution, so it would work.
Mr. Barrett. That would answer my question.
Mr. Pitts. Yes, sir.
Mr. Barrett. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Pitts. Thank you, Congressman Barrett.
Mr. Riggs. Next in order of arrival for recognition is Congresswoman Mink.
Mrs. Mink. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think all of us agree, certainly based upon the votes that occurred on the matter of getting the money to the classroom that, as a principle, we all agree that that's a goal that we should be striving for when we write legislation.
However, as I read your bill, Congressman Pitts, it seems to me that what you have done is to essentially repeal all of these laws, the 30 programs or whatever you make reference to, and take the monies that would basically go for the funding for these programs and direct that the money be sent to the States, per capita in a block grant form. Is that the correct interpretation of your legislation?
Mr. Pitts. Basically, we take certain programs--
Mrs. Mink. Yes, the 30.
Mr. Pitts. --and block grant those money to the States--
Mrs. Mink. So you repeal; repeal the basic authorization that the Congress wrote when it wrote the legislation affecting these 30 programs.
Mr. Pitts. The total funds in these programs would be used to block grant to the States.
Mrs. Mink. But isn't it true in doing that, in creating the block grant, you repeal the basic tenets of each of these provisions currently in existence in Federal law?
In other words, for instance, you've taken the Women's Educational Equity Program, one of the programs listed in your bill which is going to be directed to block grants and sent to the States. This program is a program specially created for the purpose of the distribution of funds based upon applications. If you take this money, and it's only a couple million dollars, and put it into a block grant form and give it to the governors, is there to be any assurance whatsoever, that a dime of that money would go to Women's Educational Equity?
Mr. Pitts. Well, first of all, on the Women's Education Equity funding, there was an audit of that program, I'm sure you are aware, by GAO. They found that only 17 percent of those awards go to State and local school districts and the GAO stated, and I quote, ``little evidence of their effectiveness in eliminating sex bias in education.'' Now that leaves $2,490,000 that doesn't even make it out of Washington for this program.
Mrs. Mink. I think that there is a very gross misunderstanding of this legislation. I happen to be the author of this program. It was never intended to be directed to local school systems, nor to the classrooms. It was intended to try to meet the circumstances which create barriers for girls and women in obtaining employment, in obtaining college educations, in obtaining fellowships, and so forth. So, the whole program is based upon a grant concept and much of the money goes outside of local school systems, it goes to universities, it goes to women's organizations, it goes to the YWCA, it goes to anyone that is interested in searching out the barriers to opportunity for girls and women in whatever the fields of concern might be. Therefore, you are using a different measurement now in determining whether this program is effective or not.
As a matter of fact, this legislation became law in the 1970's and it has endured up to the present time because it serves a necessary purpose. It looks to the examination of what the barriers are in all of these areas of equity in our society and helps to pinpoint it.
So, what you have done in this bill is to take that meager amount of money, put it into a block grant and there will not be any guarantees or any way in which the definition of this program will be put into effect in any State in any classroom. You've made the assertion that you are doing this because you want this money to go to the classroom. Can you tell me where the provision is in your bill that says that the governor and local educational agencies have to spend pro rata so much of this block grant to assure girls and women's education equity.
Mr. Pitts. Well, I certainly believe that women should have equity in education. But, I would like to give the money to a teacher that teaches young women. I believe that the local teachers and the local school district, if they have a need will spend it properly.
Mrs. Mink. So, Mr. Chairman, may I just conclude that my observation is that this legislation, in effect, repeals all of the 30 programs, and that creating a special block grant with the money previously set aside for these programs we will have and retain no assurance whatsoever that the objectives of these 30 programs will, in fact, be insisted upon by the governor and by the local school agencies. So this is a repealer. There is no question in my mind. This is not a matter of getting 95 cents to the classroom. It is an effort to repeal Goals 2000, School to Work, Women's Educational Equity, The Eisenhower Teacher Development Program. That's what I see in this legislation and I hope this committee will not report it out.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congresswoman Mink. Congressman Peterson.
Mr. Peterson. Thank you.
If I could ask Representative Pitts a question--your total package if $3 billion, right?
Mr. Pitts. Approximately.
Mr. Peterson. Okay, so that is about 20 percent of Federal budget for basic education. Is that your understanding?
Mr. Pitts. Approximately.
Mr. Peterson. I guess it has been interesting to listen to the debate. Now, I come from a rural area; I have 35 school districts in my congressional district and we audited them just a few weeks ago. I have school districts who get no Federal dollars. So, all of these wonderful programs are not impacting them at all.
The average rural district--and I think you will find this true in America, no different in Pennsylvania--on average about 2 percent of their budget comes from the Federal Government. And do you know why? Because of that stack of paper there. Rural school districts don't have grantsmen. They don't have people to fill out all of this complicated Federal paperwork and make sure that they meet all these guidelines. And so, these programs, though we are 6.5 percent of the overall basic education budget, I think you'll find in most of rural America we're fortunate if we are past 2 percent.
So, what we do here doesn't have a whole lot of impact there. But I want to get to a point here, to implement the 6.5 percent of the basic education budget I'm told we have 5,000 Federal bureaucrats, and I don't mean that in a negative word, but 5,000 Federal employees and 14,000 State employees that administer the programs for basic education. That's almost 20,000 to make sure that these school districts spend 2 percent of their budget, in my district, and maybe 10 percent, in some districts, of their budget. I think that alone indicts the current system.
We here in Washington can think up all the wonderful things of how we are going to change. Until you put the money--and IDEA, the Congressman from California was going on about IDEA; we mandated IDEA, but we didn't send the money. So schools, the States and the locals had to fund the bill. That was a Federal mandate, and it may have been appropriate, and it may have been perfect, but we didn't send the money. So often we do that. I'm told that even though we're 2-10 percent of local budgets, depending on whether you are urban or rural or where, but we're 50 to 60 to 70 percent of the paperwork.
When I went through the Department of Education in Harrisburg when I was there for 19 years, almost every person I met was working on a Federal program, making sure that school districts dotted all the ``i's'' and crossed all the ``t's,'' not teaching a student, not having, what I call, a very positive impact.
We have another bureaucracy down here that they're answering to. There are 20,000 salaries. Now I'm not saying we can do without all of them. But I want to tell you, a lot of that money could be better utilized in the schools buying computers, fixing up classrooms, buying new books, because we here in Washington cannot have programs that will fit from Alaska to Florida, from Arizona to Maine. This is too diverse a nation, from urban, suburban, to rural. So, we should try. This is only 20 percent of the money from Washington, 20 percent. We hear people talking like it's calamity. So 20 percent of our money, if we get a little of more of that into the classroom I think we would make a difference.
Mr. Riggs. I thank the gentleman, if he would yield to me for just a moment, so that I could point out that the Republican-led Congress has abolished 146 Federal education programs that either don't work or have never been funded. For those that have been funded we've effectively rolled that funding into programs that do, so there is a precedent for the legislation offered by Congressman Pitts.
Mr. Peterson. And the education process didn't stop, didn't miss a beat, because we lost those hundred-and-some programs, I'm sure.
Mr. Riggs. I thank the gentleman for yielding. Congressman Scarborough is recognized.
Mr. Scarborough. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am excited about the hearing and the subject. And I see Congressman Tierney laughing, but you know, I--
Mr. Tierney. By the way, Scarborough gets excited about much more that baseball sometimes.
Mr. Scarborough. That's right, that's right.
But, you know, I kept hearing Congresswoman DeLauro talk about how this bill was deficient because it didn't give enough local control. And I was getting excited about how this Republican revolution had finally touched the hearts and souls of Democrats and Congress as well, until I heard Congressman Miller, another man I like and respect, come out and basically say that this bill would result in educating handicapped children in basements, having local people ``doing nothing,'' throwing our youth out in the snow basically, starving our children and ignoring poor people.
See, now, that sounds like something George Miller would say. If you get the Federal Government out of the way, then all these horrible things are going to happen, locusts are going to descend from the heavens and that American people will not to be able educate their children alone.
What I was going to ask Congresswoman DeLauro, but she's gone, so I'll ask you Congressman Tierney--if Congressman Pitts amended this bill, or if this committee amended the bill, so we would bypass the governor and go immediately to the local school boards, would you be more willing to support this bill? If the deficient part of this bill is that we are turning it over to these governors, that obviously can't be trusted, what if we gave it to the local school board or if we gave it to the commissioners of education who State governments State people had given control of the education issue on. Would you be more willing to support this?
Mr. Tierney. I assume you want my answer not the answer I think that Rosa would give you.
Mr. Scarborough. Give me both.
Mr. Tierney. I can't give you the latter on that.
Mr. Scarborough. Okay.
Mr. Tierney. Would I be more willing? Obviously, that would be one area that needed improvement, in my estimation, that would then be getting some improvement. I think that State legislators have determined who in their particular States are best suited to make these kind of decisions and that is the appropriate body that should be entrusted to make sure that these monies get where they are going.
But there are, as I noted in my testimony, a number of other issues that I think ought to be addressed. Not the least of which, in talking on a broader level, I understand that some rural communities may not get some of these funds, may not choose to get them because they don't want to go through some of the requirements. Obviously it would be our responsibility to eliminate some of those problems. We have the power to do that; we just apparently haven't; we are doing this instead.
But it is true in all instances, that legislation we pass on a national level may not always affect every human being in the country, or every district, or every city, or every town in the country. What we try to do on the national level is look at national problems that we perceive and do the best we can to weigh in with what we think is our responsibility to address those issues. We can always try to improve that to make sure that more people benefit from the expenditure of public funds. But I still see all of the other difficulties that I noted in my testimony that would still exist.
Mr. Scarborough. I guess my bottom-line question is to you and those that have opposed this, and I certainly--I don't think that you have any horrible plans to destroy education--I think you have the best of intentions. But the question is, who don't you trust? I keep hearing about accountability; I keep hearing about if we turn it over to the States and get the Federal Government out of the way, then, like George Miller, you really will believe that children will be thrown into basements and that we will--
Mr. Tierney. Joe, if I were on a committee, I would like to defer to Mr. Miller because I think you are unfairly characterizing his words so let me just--
Mr. Scarborough. He'll admit to you he's a socialist; I'm asking you this question.
Mr. Tierney. Joe, let me just say that before we get into--you want me to answer; I want to answer--
Mr. Miller. Tierney, get out of the way here.
Mr. Scarborough. But let me, but let me--George won't let me talk here.
Mr. Miller. I want you to yield, since you keep using my name.
Mr. Scarborough. I'm not going to yield to you.
Mr. Miller. Sure you are.
Mr. Scarborough. You think I'm crazy.
Mr. Miller. Joe.
Mr. Scarborough. Who don't you trust is the question?
Mr. Tierney. I wouldn't answer a question put that way, Joe, and I think that's an inappropriate question. I think that's what gets this body bogged down in a lot of side actions.
Mr. Scarborough. Okay, well I don't want to bog down this body then.
Mr. Tierney. I think what I want to answer, and what I want to say is--
Mr. Scarborough. You just said you weren't going to answer it.
Mr. Tierney. --it's a question of what is our responsibility.
Mr. Scarborough. Right.
Mr. Tierney. That's the question that I think is appropriate. Our responsibility is that when we decide as a body representing people nationally that there is an issue or something that needs attention, then I think we have the responsibility to appropriate it in a manner that we think addresses that particular issue and that we then have some system of accountability to make sure that that in fact is being done.
Mr. Scarborough. Okay, and you talked about--
Mr. Tierney. And, I think that when we appropriate Federal money to States to supplement State education programs that we have a responsibility to make sure that it in fact supplements the programs and doesn't supplant them--
Mr. Scarborough. --and again you talk about--
Mr. Tierney. --and it doesn't end up in the monies being reduced, and who is it that might do it in that particular case--
Mr. Scarborough. --don't have a whole lot of time here--
Mr. Tierney. Let's go down historically and see how we got here in the first place.
Mr. Scarborough. It's the States' fault, right.
Mr. Tierney. Go back down and take a look at the fact that there are needs that are unmet, and George mentioned one of them being IDEA, and the Federal Government stepped forward to address. There are needs, I think, that many people here have thought have been addressed for the public schools that some can do better and we've tried to address them. Some through charter schools and some through comprehensive schools and move on. We can go on to instance by instance but we see these as national infrastructure issues given the importance of education and we do what we perceive to be our responsibility to step forward and try to resolve them in a way that affects it on the national basis.
Mr. Scarborough. Okay, now again, I certainly said a lot of things in jest, well sort of in jest, about George--
Mr. Miller. Joe.
Mr. Scarborough. --wasn't trying to bog down the process, wasn't trying to mischaracterize your intention, because I think you have the best of intentions for your children, as well as children in my district. I think it's just a question of whom do we trust more, and when you talk about accountability, I guess my belief is that if we do turn this over to the States. If we turn it over to the local government, then that accountability will rest with the local voter.
Mr. Tierney. How will you know? How will you know?
Mr. Scarborough. Because if the governor mishandles the money, if the State legislator mishandles the money, then they will be voted out of office. One final note, all of these things that you were talking about--that's democracy.
Mr. Tierney. If we take action by having these programs then we will be, if we haven't been, people support these programs.
Mr. Scarborough. One final thing, you talk about IDEA, impoverished schools, etc. I don't think Mr. Pitts' bill addresses any of these issues, I think they have all been left out of this bill.
Mr. Tierney. I think you brought them up when you started to mischaracterize Mr. Miller's comments about comprehensive schools.
Mr. Scarborough. But Mr. Miller mischaracterized first, so I was exploiting how he mischaracterized.
Mr. Tierney. I talked about comprehensive schools and School-to-Career and things are in Mr. Pitts' bill and that I think ought not to be in there, and that I think are particularly effective programs as witness to how they are doing in my district with the School-to-Careers and how I think we'll be doing with comprehensive schools. I think they are well worth doing and I think they are going to make one hell of a difference in our public school system.
Mr. Miller. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Riggs. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Miller. Mr. Chairman, since my name has been so loosely thrown around here by my good friend Joe Scarborough, may I have one minute?
Mr. Riggs. Unanimous consent to proceed for one minute.
Mr. Miller. Mr. Chairman, the fact is this: The suggestion with this legislation is that somehow that this is a major impediment to a successful education system in this country if we just got the Federal bureaucrats out of the way. When the largest school district in my district went bankrupt, it wasn't because of Federal bureaucrats, and when the second largest school district almost went bankrupt, it wasn't because of the Federal bureaucrats. It was because of bad administration, bad local decisions, and people looking the other way.
This is a comprehensive problem that requires a comprehensive solution. It's not a question of who do you trust. We could have sat back and let the Supreme Court tell every one of these school districts to educate those handicapped children, but we made a Federal effort. We said we would do all the excess costs. We never said we would do full funding. We never did the excess costs. But we put in the best we can; we've upped it the last couple years under the chairman's leadership, but that's the National Civil Rights commitment.
Okay, so the Federal Government could walk away and you'd still have the children. So you can either take the 9 percent of the money and be grateful and ask the taxpayers to do more, or you can say, keep your damn money because it's not 100 percent, and you educate the children.
We are looking for scapegoats here. We are not going to build a quality education system looking for scapegoats. And the suggestion that somehow, if just the Federal Government got out of the way, it would all look good. You know ESEA, you can wave almost every provision of it if you want to, but you go and you talk--you know, I'm in my school districts every week and they have every bit as much trouble with the State bureaucratic system. Every, I think, competent critic of education in this country has suggested that our State and local systems are incredibly top-heavy with bureaucrats, with administrators. In California a high percentage of the State Department of Education's administrative is funded by the Federal Government. Somebody is living off of somebody here.
And so, why don't we just spread out the problem here and see if maybe we can fix it without suggesting somehow that it's somehow some bureaucrats problem at the Department of Education? Because it is much larger than that and there are a lot of people sucking money off of local districts in the State Offices of Education to pad their nest, who are telling us that they would do it better than the people in Washington are doing it.
So, there is enough fault to go around if that's what you are looking for, but if you are looking for improvement, we ought to bring all players to table at one time and hold people accountable on a comprehensive basis. Thank you for engendering this discussion Mr. Pitts.
Mr. Riggs. I thank the gentleman for his eloquent comments.
I would point out that perhaps if the Congress were to act as a national legislature, we could act as a model for State legislatures around the country as I think we have in encouraging the creation of more charter schools in the States that comprise our Union.
Congressman Pitts, I want to congratulate you for moving forward, taking the logical next step. I want to point out again that the House of Representatives passed your resolution last October by a vote of 310 to 99. Three hundred and ten Members of Congress, on a bipartisan basis, went on record as supporting your proposal conceptually. Now you have come along with the logical next step. You have fleshed out your proposal. You have specified, I believe, 35 programs that should be block-granted back to the States in order to maximize local flexibility and funding.
And so I thank you, and I don't think I wouldn't disagree with the way Mrs. Mink characterized your bill. She's right; it would effectively repeal a number of programs in favor of taking that funding and putting it in a block grant. So, I don't think we disagree on that, and I don't think that while the goals or the competing interests may be mutually exclusive, I don't think we should disagree with her description of that.
Mr. Tierney. Just a point of clarification--
Mr. Riggs. Very quickly.
Mr. Tierney. --are you trying to confer that the resolution that passed last year spoke specifically to block grants?
Mr. Riggs. No.
Mr. Tierney. Okay, I just want to make sure that we all understand that.
Mr. Riggs. No, and that's a fair point. But it did speak to getting more dollars to the classroom.
Mr. Tierney. It spoke to be turning 95 cents or whatever and in fact we do about 97 or 98 I guess, so we're lowering the standard.
Mr. Riggs. Right. Thank you for your participation as a witness. You can join the committee and I'll call forward our second panel of witnesses.
I want to thank our panel of witnesses for waiting so patiently and as you get settled in, I'd like to welcome our panel and our first witness of this panel, Superintendent Linda Schrenko, in particular. Mrs. Schrenko is the Superintendent of Schools in the State of Georgia. I hope I am pronouncing your last name correctly.
Ms. Schrenko. Yes, sir.
Mr. Riggs. She is quite familiar, obviously, by virtue of the very important and prestigious position she holds with education systems and her experience includes being an education consultant, a principal, a counselor, and a teacher. We have invited Superintendent Schrenko here today to discuss the impact that this bill, Congressman Pitts' proposed block grant bill would have on students in Georgia. I understand that she will need to leave early in order to catch her return flight, so we would like you to proceed Superintendent, and then what we'll do with the indulgence of our other witnesses, is just follow your statement with any quick questions or comments that members of the committee would like to pose to you specifically, and then we'll excuse you at that point.
Thanks again for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
And for all of our witnesses, please know that your entire written statement will appear in the record of today's full committee hearing.
STATEMENT OF LINDA C. SCHRENKO, GEORGIA SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, AND VICE CHAIR, EDUCATION LEADERS COUNCIL
Ms. Schrenko. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for providing me with this opportunity concerning the Dollars to the Classroom Act. I strongly support this bill and I'd like to offer you both my perspective as a Georgia State school superintendent and as a former teacher and principal at the local level.
I spent 18 years as a public school classroom teacher and an elementary school principal, but over those years I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that our educational system directs both dollars and managerial emphasis to administration rather than to the classroom. Consequently, I left the classroom, I engaged in several other professional opportunities and then in 1994 I was successful in running for and being elected to Office of Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. Having worked in that position for the past three years, I combined that viewpoint with that of an elementary school teacher and principal, as well as the State Department of Education.
In addition to that, I served as Vice Chair of the Education Leaders Council which is a group of superintendents and board members locally and State-elected officials who work together for student educational achievement. You'll be hearing from Commissioner Frank Brogan, who is our chair, in just a few minutes.
I can't stress to all of you too strongly that just pouring more money into programs without ensuring that that money gets to the classroom to the teachers and to the students has not, in the past, and will not, in the future, improve student achievement. Comparisons of per-pupil spending to student achievement in the United States and abroad make it abundantly clear that what we are failing in is how we spend our money, not how much money we spend.
If we'll take a look for a minute at Georgia, in particular, I think I can clarify some of the misdirection of funds that happens. Georgia's total education budget from all sources for 1996 and 1997 was about $9.45 billion, of which, 6.4 percent, slightly more than $600 million came from the Federal Government. In that same year, the Georgia Department of Education had 322 employees of whom, 93 worked full time administering Federal programs. So, 29 percent of our State employees were needed to administer 6.4 percent of our funds that came from Washington. The ratio worked out to 4.55 to 1, in other words, about 4.5 hours are needed to administer a Federal program dollar for every 1 hour to administer a State dollar.
If we look at how this problem arose and how this Act might possibly help by combining many programs into a block grant.
Back in 1965, you might remember, that we had a number of targeted of programs that were passed by the Congress, each that compartmentalized or fenced in the money and required us to meet a certain constituency and keep that money in that area. Most of the bills that were originally introduced are in this Act. The ESEA Act, 24 of the 30 were in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA. The purpose of the acts back then was to improve the coordination of all the loose Federal dollars that were floating around for different programs. It didn't work.
In 1994 you passed another act to try to simplify, again, the paperwork and the red tape that you required of us at the local levels, the Consolidated Education Act. What we ended up doing, instead of consolidating, was to still compartmentalize. But now, you were requiring school improvement plans for Goals 2000, for ESEA, for every program that we did and you said we should integrate our services but you wouldn't let us integrate our funding. So, we ended up with more paperwork, less integration, we can't use our title II Professional Development Money to train our title I teachers. We have to keep it compartmentalized. Moreover, it has increased the bureaucratic imperatives and has created for us a nightmare of special interests groups that we, at the local level, have to deal with.
So, we support, from Georgia, the consolidation and the block granting back to the States with the qualification that in certain States, like mine, we have elected positions that are responsible for that money by our constitution. And, we would urge you to allow our constitutions to be valid and to carry out our statewide constitutions as written.
The second part of it, I would very strongly urge you to define what you mean by classroom use. Because we have found too many times, that even down at the local level a principal can define classroom use in any way he or she wants to. Let us at least get some general parameters for classroom use.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you this afternoon.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you very much, Superintendent, and I would hope that we could work in partnership to define classroom expenditures. But you understand that Congressman Pitts' proposal leaves that authority or that latitude to the States, specifically to the governors. So, it might be helpful to hear from you, Commissioner Brogan, Dr. Bartman, who is Commissioner of Education in Missouri, and our other panelists on what you think might be legitimate classroom expenditures.
In that same vein though, do you have any idea how much of every Federal taxpayer dollar for education that you receive actually makes its way down to the local level and into the classroom.
Ms. Schrenko. We did a study about a year ago for Congressman Norwood and we found that less than 40 cents on the dollar was getting to the local level. Then we could not trace it once it got to the district level so we can't exactly tell you about the classroom but I would fear that it's very little.
Mr. Riggs. The other 60 cents, I think you spoke to at least part of that, is being used, obviously, for compliance purposes.
Ms. Schrenko. Compliance at the State level and there's also regional compliance even under the State you will have regional compliance. Out in our 16 different educational districts in Georgia that requires another layer of bureaucracy.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. Congressman Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you Mr. Chairman. I just had a couple of questions. The 93 employees, as I understand, administer the $600 million that you get from the Federal Government.
Ms. Schrenko. Yes.
Mr. Scott. Their salaries would represent about 1 percent of the $600 million.
Ms. Schrenko. Possibly, I don't have their salaries with me.
Mr. Scott. I appreciate your comment on what classroom use means, because that is so wide open that we don't know or have any idea what the money was going to be used for. What do you use the Goals 2000 money for?
Ms. Schrenko. We use Goals 2000 money for two purposes. One to revise our curriculum for the State of Georgia in a statewide project. And, two, to give to local systems for school improvement grants.
Mr. Scott. And the School-to-Work Program, what do you use that money for?
Ms. Schrenko. We don't get School-to-Work grants.
Mr. Scott. Under this bill would you get more or less money to administer the programs, under this bill, than you do under the separate 30 programs?
Ms. Schrenko. If I am using 1 percent and I could use 5 percent. I'd say I would have more to administer, you're talking 95.5 and the number guesstimated for me was about 1 percent now.
Mr. Scott. That was just employees, it could be some other expenses.
Ms. Schrenko. I am sure there are.
Mr. Scott. So you would get more administration money under the provisions of the bill than you think you get from the individual programs?
Ms. Schrenko. I think I would get more flexibility. Now I can't give you my total administrative costs, but I think at 29 percent of my employees to administer Federal programs. It possibly could be much higher than 5 percent.
Mr. Scott. Could you tell what kind of activities would be going on in Georgia if this bill were to pass that are not going on now. And, what is going on now that would not take place if this bill were to pass. Because we are talking about the same money, we are just shifting it around.
Ms. Schrenko. I think what you would see is a lot more flexibility at the local level. For example, in schools where title II money comes right now, where they have title I school-wide programs and they want to use their title II money perhaps to train their teachers in technology to have computer programs to teach reading or to teach math. They want to integrate the two because technology training is a part of title II, but title I is reading and math. Right now they are compartmentalized. I would see under the block grantings that you could overlap the two and utilize them together.
Mr. Scott. Are there any missions that you would not try to fulfill, for example Mrs. Mink indicated that Gender Equity might get dropped altogether. Goals 2000 planning might get dropped altogether, School-to-Work in those States that get School-to-Work might get dropped altogether. Are there some missions that you would not want to fulfill.
Ms. Schrenko. No, I think rather than mission that we would not want to fill we want to have one comprehensive program that addressed all of our needs instead of 15 different file drawers full of applications that are just narrowly defined and inflexible.
Mr. Scott. I guess the point I'm making is that if administrative flexibility is what you are looking for, that could be addressed. But what this bill does is actually repeals the language, the effective Goals 2000, Eisenhower Teacher Training, Gender Equity. It just repeals those altogether. And those missions may not be fulfilled at all.
Ms. Schrenko. I think if those missions are worthwhile they will certainly be fulfilled.
Mr. Scott. Well, they weren't before we--
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Scott. Superintendent Schrenko, I was told you needed to leave shortly after 4:00. So I need to know at this point and time, do you need to excuse yourself to catch your flight?
Ms. Schrenko. I do.
Mr. Riggs. Okay, you are excused. May I ask you, well let me ask you one--no sooner do I say you are excused--but I am going to ask Superintendent Brogan and Superintendent Bartman the same question. Several of these programs are specifically for research-related activities or their programs that have a Federal research component built into them. Or that research is conducted by the department or the departments subcontractor, do you, in Georgia, find that Federal role in research and dissemination of research important or helpful?
Ms. Schrenko. We use one publication and that is our Southeastern Regional Lab and they do--we are able to call them and tell them that we want research information on any area. That may be a function of the fact that she's right there in the building with us. We gave her an office. But, we do find that we can use the SERVE lady very well. But the rest of the research, we just get volumes of paper, it is not very useable.
Mr. Riggs. That Southeastern Regional Lab is actually based in Georgia, is it not?
Ms. Schrenko. Yes, it is in our office.
Mr. Riggs. Okay, well, I appreciate very much your testimony. Thank you for appearing here today, you are excused.
We turn now to Commissioner Frank Brogan who is in his first term as the Commissioner of Education in the State of Florida. We have not had a chance to meet, I don't think Commissioner, but I certainly know of you by your reputation which proceeds you.
Mr. Brogan Haven't missed a thing, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. One of the many accomplishments that he is already credited with is reducing bureaucracy at the Department of Education in Florida and like Superintendent Schrenko, we invited him here today to discuss how this bill would help him eliminate unnecessary waste or duplicative programs between the Federal and State levels and we hope consequently, promote learning in Florida.
So, please proceed, Commissioner.
STATEMENT OF FRANK BROGAN, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, STATE OF FLORIDA, AND CHAIRMAN, EDUCATION LEADERS COUNCIL
Mr. Brogan Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it's a pleasure to be back before this particular committee. A pleasure and an honor. I am Florida's Commissioner's of Education and also serve as chairman of the Education Leaders Council, a national organization, the ELC. ELC is a national group of reform-minded State education chiefs from Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as State education boards, individual State and local education board members and other officials from 29 States. I'm here to comment on the Dollars to the Classrooms Act and share our thoughts on the proper relationship between the local, State, and Federal levels of government in the delivery of education. I will also highlight some of the innovations and reforms Florida and other ELC member States are pursuing at the State and local level.
My own perspective on these matters goes well beyond my current office. Before my election as Florida's State Education Commissioner in 1994, like my ELC colleague from Georgia, I served as a classroom teacher and principal. In addition, I served as a district school superintendent. As a member of the ELC, I have also had the opportunity to learn and benefit greatly from the success and struggles of other innovative State education chiefs, just like Superintendent Schrenko, who serves, as she mentioned, as the ELC Vice Chair.
The first guiding principal that binds ELC members is our belief that education initiatives, policies and practices are most effective when generated from within local communities and weakest when imposed upon communities through Federal mandates and regulations. Adopting that as your guiding principle as you consider legislation is the most valuable thing Congress can do to, I believe, to help improve education in America. I believe the Dollars to the Classroom Act, embodies that spirit.
We at the State and local level feel the crushing burden caused by too many Federal regulations, procedures, and mandates. Florida spends millions of dollars every year to administer inflexible, categorical Federal programs that divert precious dollars away from the classroom and fulfilling our most important purpose, improving student achievement.
It is very expensive and time-consuming to monitor both the SEA's and the LEA's on program-by-program basis. In Florida's title I program this year, we have a carry over of over $25 million that could be used for the children it is intended to help in Federal regulations were not quite so restrictive. For example, the carry over funds could be used by district-wide or individual school improvement activities to enhance the total school program where reform efforts are desperately needed. For three years, 20 title I schools have been identified as schools in crisis in Florida, or as we call them, Critically Low Performing Schools. Targeting some of the $25 million to these 20 troubled schools and others could be very helpful in supporting meaningful reform.
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, and I admit this, with all good intention, Federal education programs often get translated into the growing bureaucratic thicket and prove sometimes counterproductive. The operative questions in evaluating the effectiveness of these programs has been: How much money have we put into each category? Rarely is the question asked: How did the program improve student achievement? Or perhaps: Where might the money have been more effectively targeted? We continue grasping for answers to what plagues education; but I submit to you, we aren't even asking the right questions.
Nationally, the percentage of the education budget that was devoted to the classroom declined from 61 percent in 1960 to 46 percent in 1990. If you follow the money, it is clear we can do a better job of getting dollars to the classroom. In Florida, because of Federal requirements, there are 297 State employees to oversee and administer approximately $1 billion in Federal funds. By contrast, we have 374 State-funded positions to 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.
This approach goes against the growing tide of freedom and innovation currently sweeping the education landscape in our States. We at the State and local level are stressing standards, choice, enterprise and accountability and pushing authority and control of decisions and budgets to the school level. Through innovations like charter schools we are giving public schools true autonomy with respect to budgeting, curriculum and personnel and meaningful choices to parents in exchange for accountability for results.
Money alone will not solve the problems of education, We must be smarter about how we spend it. AS noted in the interim report of Senate Budget Committee's Education Task Force, Chaired by Senator Frist, spending on American elementary and secondary education has risen from $16.7 billion in 1959 to over $339 billion in 1996. Teacher student ratios have dropped from an average of 22.3 students per teacher in 1970 to 17.3 students per teacher in 1996. Regrettably, as spending has risen and student teacher ratios have been reduced, student achievement has continued to decline over the same period. The recent scores from the Third International Math and Science Study of TIMMS paint a disturbing picture. TIMMS data shows American twelfth graders scoring near the bottom in comparison with their peers from other countries.
We must change the way we think about our schools. Somehow we in education have lost our true focus. It seems we put the interest of maintaining systems over what is best for children: more options for parents; autonomy for schools; and focusing on what matters most, student achievement or the way back to a more child-centered approach. The operative questions, in deciding whether to retain existing programs or design new ones, must be: Are they achieving the desired results, and how well are they serving children? Those closest to the children being served are most qualified to answer these questions.
Block granting the 30 programs included in the Dollars to the Classroom Act is an important first step. We believe Congress should allow States to designate virtually all Federal dollars for specified programs, thus allowing the flexibility to shift away from what does not work and toward what does.
There is precedent here. Congress agreed in 1996 to turn welfare reform over to the States, allowing each to tailor programs to fit its own needs and, most importantly, the needs of the people the programs are intended to serve. We recommend the same philosophical approach with regard to education. Decrease the Federal role in education by block granting money to the States without strings.
We are already beginning to see States become living laboratories, experimenting with various programs and options. If left to pursue reform without added Federal burdens and interference, States can learn from the success and mistakes of others, as we've done with the ELC, with the freedom to emulate such programs as models and/or discard those that are ineffective.
Nothing typifies this better than the growing charter school movement. I'm proud to say that Florida is one of the fastest growing States in the Nation in terms of the number of public charter schools approved and in operation. Across the country, there are more than 800 charter schools in 31 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, serving over 161,000 children. It's interesting to note that more than 55 percent of the charter schools lay in the ELC States.
This innovative reform is succeeding because charter schools are able to focus on academic achievement. They are not burdened with unnecessary regula our public schools. They are accountable, autonomous, and provide healthy competition by providing choices to parents and teachers.
And again, I thank you for calling on me and the members of the Education Leaders Council for our views on these issues and look forward to continuing all of our work with you, Republicans and Democrats. Thank you.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you very much, Commissioner Brogan. How is your schedule? Will you be able to stay so that the other witnesses can complete their testimony?
Mr. Brogan. Apparently not, Mr. Chairman. I just got the grimace.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. Then out of respect for other witnesses, I'm simply going to thank you for your testimony today and excuse you, and would ask that perhaps you could communicate back to the committee that, if we viewed the Pitts bill as simply the first step, what additional program we might consider block-granting to State and local school districts, and if we considered programs that are specifically designed to address the educational needs of special populations, what would happen if we took those programs and put them into a block grant? Are we at the point where we don't need those Federal protections or assurances for special populations because the States will address those special populations, or would the States have a higher priority use for those funds?
Mr. Brogan. Mr. Chairman, if before I leave, you will indulge me just one moment more--because I, like most here, was fascinated by the dialogue between Members to Members on this issue, and typically when you talk about block grants, there are two major concerns, and I heard them expressed by members here today.
One is the issue of accountability, and that if you moved to block grants, there is not accountability, and I would suggest to you as the chief State school officer of the fourth largest State in the country that we're not looking to have block grants without accountability.
The difference, I think, is in the philosophy of what we are accountable to. So much of the Federal programs hold us accountable to the numbers of rulers and paper and pencils, the number of people, and the number of programs. We are concerned, in Florida, more with how children are learning to read and write and calculate mathematically, and if the infusion of both State and Federal dollars are not producing higher levels of student achievement in those areas, then all the accountability towards process over outcome has simply been a waste of time.
The other issue where people are concerned when it comes to block grants is the fact that block grants will allow a decrease in funding, and I would submit that that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. I'm capable of doing the math in the State of Florida, and I would say that if we saw a decrease in important funding in our State to programs that have been supported to a higher level, and were turning out higher levels of students in terms of reading, writing, and arithmetic, I could figure that out very quickly, whether it is in a block grant or whether it is in a strict categorical format, and I think that the word trust was bandied about here a great deal today, and I think one of the things that we have to do is raise our level of trust.
I, like Congressman Scarborough, am not quite sure who doesn't trust who in all of these things. I trust the Federal Government to do what they think is the right thing to do for our States. I trust our State legislature and our governors, and our chief State school officers to do the right thing for people at the local level, and I trust the people at the local level that they will, indeed, do the right thing if afforded the opportunity to do so, but I overarch that with the statement that there must be accountability.
And that accountability needs to come in the simplest format possible, and that is simply, can our children in Florida, regardless of color of skin or native tongue or socioeconomic level or family structure, at the end of the day read and write and calculate mathematically at higher levels than they did the year before? Are they prepared with more vocational and technical skills to meet the needs of the most competitive workforce this planet has ever seen? Are we creating safe and disciplined environments where teachers can teach and children can learn, and if all of the accountability in the world, based on process, doesn't evidence those critically important issues, then again it begs the question, what are we holding States accountable to, and I submit that much of the Federal regulation is concerned more with accountability based on stacks of process issues and not at the end of the day, reading, writing and arithmetic.
And I thank you for indulging me those comments and wish I could stay for more of the dialogue. It's wonderful, fascinating, and I appreciate the opportunity, again, to appear before Chairman Goodling and you so much.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Commissioner Brogan.
We turn to our next witness, Paul Sousa, the superintendent of the Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama. Superintendent Sousa has worked in the Alabama schools for over 30 years. In addition to his current role, he, too, has served as a principal and a teacher. We're delighted that he could be with us today to discuss the impact of this proposed legislation on Mobile County schools.
So, Superintendent, thank you. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF PAUL SOUSA, SUPERINTENDENT OF MOBILE COUNTY SCHOOLS IN ALABAMA
Mr. Sousa. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've been in the Mobile County school system 36 years. The Mobile County public school system is comprised of 93 schools serving 65,000 students who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas. We are the largest school system in the State of Alabama. We also average--66 percent of our students receive free and reduced-price lunches. We are a very underfunded school system.
The district has established district-wide goals consistent with State and national goals. By the way, our two leading goals have been improved student achievement and safe schools, and I also want to add that we have 65,000 students dressed out in uniforms in Mobile County, which I think is a major accomplishment. Sixty-five thousand students are dressed out in our school system, all 65,000.
The major process for accomplishing our goals is centered around use if correlates that have been found to be associated with effective schools. Among other things, these correlates include a belief that our children can learn the core curriculum and that the principal must be the instructional leader. A central strategy in this improvement process is the formula of building level teams comprised of principals, teachers, other staff, and community members to develop appropriate school improvement plans for their individual school communities.
The goal which has received the district's highest priority is that of increasing student achievement. Three years ago, we formed a student achievement task force, dedicated to improving student achievement in all of our 93 schools. After months of planning, the task force decided to have each of our schools submit plans for improvement, along with a budget, in order that funds could be directed to each school to support their goals. I think this is what the act that we're talking about today is looking at. As a result of the district-wide efforts, the Mobile County public school system improved test scores 18 percentage points.
The school improvement process also has built-in accountability that requires building level teams in individual schools to report their progress related to the school improvement plan and district goals. It is critical to move as many decisions as possible as close to students as possible.
We must have well-qualified teachers and principals that can make the right decisions for the school community and be willing to be held accountable. Our local efforts have shown great promise so far, as our standardized test scores continue to rise. Our success leads us to believe that the process and strategy we have in place are effective in increasing student achievement for our students and, in general, in meeting the needs of each individual school community.
The passage of the Dollars to the Classroom Act would give school systems the flexibility to pass along dollars to individual building level teams. We could use them to meet the goals in their school improvement plans.
I strongly support the passage of the Pitts-Hutchinson Dollars to the Classroom Act because it provides for school districts to make local decisions and requires that money to be spent in the classroom. Our dramatic increases in student achievement is a testimony to the commitment in the Dollars to the Classroom Act.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Superintendent, for your very succinct testimony. We'll look forward to the opportunity to pose some questions to you and have a little bit more interaction.
Mr. Edward Spang is the principal of the Unionville High School in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. I take it that you are a very important constituent, perhaps of the chairman of the full committee. He has served the Pennsylvania school system in several capacities, so we're getting a real breadth and depth of experience today from professional educators because he has also been an assistant principal and a teacher.
Mr. Spang, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF EDWARD SPANG, PRINCIPAL, UNIONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL, KENNET SQUARE, PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. Spang. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with the committee today. I am honored by the invitation extended by Mr. Pitts' office to appear before the committee to speak about the Dollars to the Classroom Act.
Mr. Riggs. And will you allow me just to correct for the record, you are a very important constituent, but of Congressman Pitts, not Chairman Goodling, but we're glad you're here.
Mr. Spang. Our school district, and my high school in particular, currently receives only limited funding from Federal sources. The Unionville-Chadds Ford school budget for the current 1997/1998 school year totals approximately $34.1 million for our 3,560 student population in grades kindergarten through twelve. Of that amount, only $34,000 comes from Federal sources. This funding is provided through title II, title VI and Drug Free Schools and Communities program with their restrictive and limited guidelines for the allocation of the funds. However, the vast majority of our budget, over 90 percent, comes from funds garnered by local property taxation.
Ironically, because our district has been successful in providing meaningful educational experiences for our student population, in many ways we do not meet qualifications for Federal funding. Apparently, we are being penalized because of our success and the type of school community we are. For example, of the last three graduating classes from my high school, only one student failed to complete the requirements for graduation. 92 percent of the graduates continued their education at institutions of higher learning in schools across the United States. My students consistently score above State and national averages on achievement tests, the ACT, and the SAT exams. My students are well-behaved and are motivated by the school and their families to meet our mutually high expectations. In short, because I have supportive parents and a dedicated and caring staff of teachers and administrators, mine is a very successful high school.
In view of our success, I ask you to consider why our district receives so few Federal dollars to help the students we serve. Could it be that we are victims of our own success or that current Federal funding is not designed to help students like mine and the community we serve? How can more Federal funds be provided to my faculty and students? How can the funds be provided without the current limits and restrictions? How can the local school district, principal, and teachers be granted more flexibility to determine how these funds may be used to positively affect student achievement? I am sure if we had more resources available, we could decide how they could best be used, and used more effectively, to do an even better job.
My teachers would make excellent use of the additional funds if these funds were provided directly to the teacher and not lost in the bureaucratic process. Current local school district resources do not provide sufficient funding to meet teacher requests beyond basic needs. If additional resources were made available, we might be able to provide: manipulatives for the math department to allow tactile learners to grasp mathematical concepts more easily; probes that interface with computers for the science department to increase the sophistication level of the collection and analysis of data during laboratory activities; updated maps for the social studies department to allow students to keep abreast of the constantly changing political and geographic face of the earth; newer and more powerful computers and printers for my Writing Center to provide additional support for the language arts curriculum; funds to support efforts to help students resist peer pressure and to make positive choices about involvement with drug and alcohol usage; by strengthening our peer leadership and peer mediation programs; tape recorders and tapes for the foreign language department to allow students to hear and to practice proper language skills; additional Internet connections in the library/media center to increase research capabilities for students; and additional books so that all students in a particular course can study the same piece of literature at the same time instead of our current practice of passing classroom sets of books from one teacher to another until all students have had the opportunity to read the book.
I'm sure that, if given the opportunity, all teachers in my building would have some suggestion for the effective use of additional funding if these monies were provided directly to their classroom.
My school district is in the process of developing a fiscal budget for the upcoming school year. I expect, again, only limited support will be provided for my students by Federal funding sources. I am told by my superintendent that just a few years ago our district received well over $250,000 from Federal sources. Success by our students in programs such as title I caused this decline to present limited levels. Does this mean that the Federal funds are being spent to promote continued failure rather than to promote teacher and student success?
With limited funding available to our district, it is critically important that as many of the allocated dollars as possible reach the district for its intended use in specific programs and be used by teachers and students. Dollars siphoned off by bureaucratic procedures do nothing to assist teachers, parents and students. The mountains of paperwork required to receive Federal funds are time consuming and discouraging for all involved. We do not need several layers of State and regional control removing portions of the money meant for teachers and students. Surely some simplified auditing process could be instituted to provide accountability for funding which drastically increases the percentage of monies allocated to schools for teacher training and/or supplies which benefit the children in the classroom.
I ask you not to penalize districts who are successful in improving student achievement. I ask you to make the best use possible of the Federal tax dollars available for education by putting these funds in the hands of classroom teacher who serve the students.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Spang, and in a moment when we get an opportunity to have some give-and-take, I'm going to ask you to respond specifically to the question of who do you trust, with respect to making funding decisions, and I apologize for having to leave briefly during the middle of your testimony.
Mr. Brian Waltman is a cultural geography teacher Smith Middle School in Pennsylvania. Now, would that, by any chance, be located in Congressman Pitts' Congressional District?
Mr. Waltman. Slightly in the middle.
Mr. Riggs. Slightly in the middle? Okay.
He's been teaching for six years, and of course, as someone who's there in the trenches so to speak, is dealing with the issue of classroom funding on a number of different fronts. We're anxious to hear his experiences, and I'm told that he has brought with him several of his charges, students who attend Smith Middle School, and we're really delighted to see the young people in attendance today, and we wanted to extend to them a very special welcome to Washington and to the committee hearing.
Mr. Waltman, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF BRIAN WALTMAN, CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY TEACHER, SMITH MIDDLE SCHOOL, STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. Waltman. If you can indulge me, I need a visual aid. I teach middle school, and we need to have visual learners and all those things.
As you said, I'm an eighth-grade middle cultural geography teacher, and every day I attempt to motivate and challenge 190 eighth-graders to learn something new about geography. I'm constantly looking for new educational tools to improve or enhance my lessons. Let's face it; what lessons do you remember most from your middle school or junior high years? Probably a lessons with extra pizzazz, a field trip to a local historical or scientific spot, or maybe an extra-special way a teacher presented a topic.
If a carpenter found a new tool that was cost-effective and would improve the quality of his work, you can bet he would purchase the item as quickly as possible. There are many wonderful teaching tools on the market that I would love to have in my classroom. These tools are relatively inexpensive and would assist me in reaching many students on various learning levels. Unfortunately, however, if I requested one of these teaching tools today, May 5th, 1998, I would not be able to implement in my classroom until September, 1999.
Under the present system, I need to wait until November of 1998 to even order new materials. The request needs to be approved first by the social studies department, then by the building principal. Continuing to make its way through the system, my request will need the approval of the district superintendent, and finally, the business office must release the necessary funds. If an item passes through all these channels, I would receive it, the tool, in time for the start of the 1999 school year, more than a year and four months after my initial request.
Last year, I requested funds for a new educational tool to enhance the instruction in my classroom. Unfortunately, it did not make it through the approval process. No one asked me why I needed this particular teaching tool or how it would benefit the students. Instead, my tool became a dollar figure on an extensive budget. In an effort to save money, my tool was regarded as unnecessary and was quickly scratched off the list. I was left the choice to do without, develop and use an alternative tool, or purchase the tool myself. I believe every teacher in America would relish the opportunity to have access to new educational tools and to implement them in their classroom as quickly as possible.
I brought with me a stack of 100 one dollar bills. Imagine, again, this committee decided today to allot $100 for the use of tools in my classroom. Under the current educational system, where appropriate funds pass through a variety of designated channels, I wonder how many of these dollars would actually make it to my classroom at Smith Middle School.
I also brought with me a $100 bill. Imagine, again, this committee decided to allot me $100 for educational tools. This time, however, the money was put into the system, following the guidelines of the Dollars to Classroom Act. This $100 would skip the existing channels and have a better chance of reaching my classroom in its entirety.
Trust me; $100 could be used for a vast array of teaching tools, tools that would benefit students at a variety of learning levels, from the learning disabled to the gifted, and everyone in between. For example, $100 could be used to purchase a subscription to Junior Scholastic Magazine where each student would receive a current event magazine and a supplemental news video for the classroom. $100 could connect my classroom computer to the Internet and, therefore, give my students access to the World Wide Web, linking them to unlimited information, visuals, and people groups around the world. $100 could fund a field trip to a local history museum, allowing my students to experience their history first hand. $100 could purchase a variety of interactive National Geographic CD-ROMs and allow my classroom computer to be used as an effective teaching tool for all the students in my classroom, regardless of their dominant learning style.
Today's classroom teachers are hard-working and extremely resourceful. At the same time, however, classroom teachers are often frustrated by the financial hoops they are asked to jump through, only to be told, ``Sorry. We don't have the money for your request.''
Members of the committee, I know that more money is not the answer to all problems; however, as a teacher that is committed to challenge the minds of today's youth, I believe that any legislation that allows money to be channeled directly to the classroom would reduce teacher frustration while empowering them to meet the learning potential of all students.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you very much, Mr. Waltman, and do you want to recognize any of your students, in particular? Or perhaps, since I have mentioned them earlier--
Mr. Waltman. I don't know if they'd be embarrassed or not.
Mr. Riggs. Well, let's ask them to stand, so that we know--
Mr. Waltman. If you would please stand, these are students from Smith Middle School in Southern Lancaster County school district in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Waltman. They've been more patient with you than they are with me.
Mr. Riggs. Well, I appreciate that, in particular, because no doubt I could not handle as well as you handle them, I'm sure, but we're very, very happy that they could be here. So, all of you are in the eighth grade and going on to high school next year? Good. I hope this has helped your learning experience in middle school.
Mr. Waltman. Thank you.
Mr. Riggs. And our last witness, who's waited very, very patiently, is Dr. Robert Bartman. He is the commissioner of education in the State of Missouri.
Dr. Bartman, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT BARTMAN, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, STATE OF MISSOURI
Mr. Bartman. Well, I too am delighted to have the opportunity to visit with you just a little bit about Dollars for the Classroom. I think I can say without reservation that my colleagues, as chief State school officers, and I support more dollars targeted for student learning. I think I can also say that we favor flexibility, and in fact, we've enjoyed additional flexibility with changes in the law over the last couple of years and the Secretary's willingness to provide waivers. We favor more effective use of the dollars, as well.
The Dollars for the Classroom Act makes explicit, and some implicit, promises, however, that I believe deserve some scrutiny. The promise of this bill is to put more dollars in the classroom; yet, the way it's currently constructed, it could create less dollars for the classroom. The Hold-Harmless Provision, for example, which talks about 75 percent of the money has the possibility, over a period of time, of being reduced by 50 percent. That is 95 percent each year until it gets down to 80 percent, and in aggregate, that would be about 50 percent.
Perhaps a more subtle possible loss of funds to the classroom deals with this issue that there is no protection to require the additional Federal money to supplement rather than supplant local and State money. The result of there not being a protection against that could erode, almost dollar for dollar, the additional Federal funds, and while 95 percent were expected to go to the classroom, the same amount of money then could be taken out of the classroom and spent for other school purposes. In that event, in either event, students lose.
The Dollars in the Classroom Act promises more local control and flexibility. In fact, it's likely to get less because the governor, under the provisions of this act, makes the decisions regarding what's appropriate to classroom activities, and, in fact, in our States, and I think the same is probably true with Georgia as Superintendent Schrenko testified, the State constitution gives the State board of education the authority to supervise instruction, and with the governor making instructional decisions, it would be, I think, a conflict in their constitution. At any rate, the erosion of local control has the effect I think of hurting students.
The bill promises for more effective use of dollars. It could, in fact, result in less effective of dollars because of the fact that there is no accountability for student results provided for in the bill.
It promises more focus; yet, it could provide less focus because in accordance with the GAO recent report, the report observes that some evidence suggested, at the local level, a greater share of Federal funds actually reaches the classroom compared to State and local funds, and when you turn categorical aid and to general aid, it has the possibility of being used for general uses, and less money would get to the classroom.
I believe that, if the bill is passed as it is, the effect and result of the bill will be broken promises, and students would be adversely affected.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be here and testify.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Dr. Bartman, and we welcome and value, obviously, your professional opinion which is based on a great deal of expertise.
I'm curious; have you done an analysis similar to the one that Superintendent Schrenko spoke of in her home State of Georgia in terms of how much money they are forced to spend complying with the requirements and the conditions imposed by Federal funding?
Mr. Bartman. To administer and monitor programs, it averages about two to three percent in our department. Now, we do use additional monies to provide support to the classroom, but the actual amount of money that we use for monitoring and overseeing and compliance is about two to three percent.
Mr. Riggs. Why would the experience then in Missouri be so different from Georgia, where--because I believe she just testified to the effect that while Federal taxpayer funding constitutes, I think, slightly less than 7 percent of the overall funding for public education in Georgia, she has to devote, I think she said, somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 percent of her administrative budget to procuring and complying with the conditions imposed on them.
Mr. Bartman. I can't testify for Georgia. I can only say that we use very limited amounts for monitoring and compliance. We do use monies to provide support primarily to rural schools who can't afford additional staff to help them provide professional developmental, reading assistance, curriculum issues.
Mr. Riggs. When you talk about a substitute-not-supplant provision in the legislation, is your concern--let me try and understand it. Your concern is that State legislatures might reduce State and local taxpayer funding for public education in Missouri by the equivalent amount that Federal taxpayer funding is increased?
Mr. Bartman. I think there is the potential for both the State and local decisionmakers to reduce the State and local effort towards education and replace those dollars with Federal dollars.
Mr. Riggs. Could you provide our committee with specific examples of where that has occurred in the country with respect to recent Federal legislation? I hear that concern frequently, and I know you are a member, I assume, of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and I've heard that concern from that organization, but could you provide us--you or the organization--provide us with examples of where and when that has happened?
Mr. Bartman. I can provide you an example, a specific example, of when it was attempted, but it was only the provision of the supplement versus supplant that kept the State government from reducing effort in one of the Federal programs, particularly the adult basic education program.
Mr. Riggs. I'm sorry. Which program was that?
Mr. Bartman. The adult basic education program.
Mr. Riggs. Well, would you provide us with any other examples or illustrations that you or the council is aware of because that would be, I think, very, very helpful information to have.
Let me go to Superintendent Sousa and Mr. Sprang because I'm leading up to that loaded question, who do you really trust and ask you, you've heard the concerns today with respect to accountability. So let me ask you specifically, and Mr. Waltman, you, too, if you'd like to respond, how do you respond to those concerns, and do--I mean, are you sympathetic to those who suggest that there needs to be some sort of prot funds would not be misspent or wasted in the absence of all these strict compliance and reporting requirements? Why don't you go first, Superintendent Sousa?
Mr. Sousa. I fully believe that if you permit teachers and principals and local communities to have these monies to address their needs, whatever they are: having all students reading by the end of the third grade, or whatever, I believe that's the way to go. I, also, believe that it's going to take a couple of years of accountability to see what kind of achievement that is going to take place in these schools. I firmly believe that the success will come when you filter the monies down and the decision making down to the local schools. So I think it's going to take a little bit of time, also, a little patience. I think there will be some accountability, and it will be with success.
Mr. Riggs. Mr. Spang, how do you respond to those concerns?
Mr. Spang. I would, also, indicate that probably the teachers are the ones who are going to be held accountable and the ones who are going to be most benefitted by the extra funding in the classroom to be able to help their students, and I believe that the results are going to be shown from what takes place there. I don't think we should be getting into arguments about, back and forth, who do we trust, and who we don't trust and throw mud at each other. If the funds come to the schools, and they get put into the classrooms, teachers are going to make use of those to benefit kids, and kids are going to be the winners in that.
Mr. Riggs. Have all four of you gentlemen had a chance to actually look at the list of programs which Congressman Pitts proposes to put in his block grant?
Mr. Sousa. Yes.
Mr. Riggs. So, you go down all these--I'm sure they were all well-intentional when they were established, but the concern that I have is that if there is a lack of accountability, it's here in Washington. That is to say, I don't know that we have gotten the proven results to demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs, results that would argue for the continued longevity of these programs. In fact, I think you could make an argument to the contrary that there's been very little real accountability at the Federal level in terms of demanding, as Commissioner Brogan put it, higher levels of student performance or student achievement and pupil performance.
But let me go to that question for you, Mr. Waltman, and you, Mr. Spang. If you had had a choice as to--and I don't know how much of this $3.37 billion under a formula block grant that is based on the K-12 population in your respective school districts--I don't know how much of that funding would ultimately make its way down to your particular school district, Mr. Spang, or your particular school, Mr. Waltman, but who would you--let's just say for a moment, you had--we go back to your $100 example, and here is a small amount of money. Who would you want to decide to spend that money? Should it be the Congress, acting as some sort of national school board, or do you place more faith, more trust, since that seems to be the operative word here today, in the school board, and I'm assuming you know the members of the locally elected school board in the district where you teach?
Mr. Waltman. Yes.
Mr. Riggs. I guess I've begged the answer to my question, but you don't take issue with my contention which is the very theory behind the bill that these funds for these programs could be block-granted and could be, in terms of how they're ultimately utilized, best spent by the locally elected decision makers in your school districts? Is that correct?
Mr. Spang. Yes.
Mr. Riggs. You agree with that theory? Okay, and Dr. Bartman, given that, you still have reservations? I think it was Congressman Scarborough who we asked one of our earlier witnesses, one of our colleagues, what if Congressman Pitts was to agree to modify his legislation so the money was block-granted down to the local level? Would that do anything to allay the reservations that you've expressed today about his legislation.
Mr. Bartman. I think it helps with some, but just like Congressman Tierney suggested, there are other issues that I believe need to be at least reviewed in this bill. Going straight to the local district, for example, doesn't deal with the, in my judgment, deal with the issue of accountability. Is the program, is the money value-added to the local school district? Are better results, better achievement results, coming from students as a result of the money being distributed in this fashion? Is it making any difference? How do you know?
Mr. Riggs. Well, what about if you are the Chief State School Officer, a chief elected along with the governor, chief education official for the State of Missouri? What about a provision that said, ``While the funding is block-granted down to the local level, down to that eligible entity which would be the local educational agency, the local school district, that agency must then be accountable to the State, in terms of how the money is spent?''
Mr. Bartman. It would be improvement. Yes, sir. That would be an improvement.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you. Congressman Scott? I'm sorry. Congressman Kildee?
Mr. Kildee. Mr. Spang, what percentage of your student population, in your particular school, is minority?
Mr. Spang. I'm going to guess about five percent.
Mr. Kildee. Five percent. What percentage of your student population, in your school building, qualify for free or reduced lunches?
Mr. Spang. Less than one percent.
Mr. Kildee. So, your school is not really a microcosm of America? It's not a cross-section of America?
Mr. Spang. It is not.
Mr. Kildee. I wanted to make that clear.
One of the problems I have is that we tried this once before in 1981. I was here in 1981. I've been here since 1976, and we changed it from title I to, I think chapter I and chapter II. And chapter II was miserably funded, and the block grant was miserably funded after that. We lost chunks of dollars, and one of the reasons that happened is that, very often, the programs that Congress has felt are needed for special populations and special needs, those programs lose their identity, and then they lose their advocacy, and then they lose their dollars, and that's why we've kept reversing what Ronald Reagan did in 1981. We began to start taking those things that were buried, thrown in with the chapter II. They just threw a lot of things in chapter II and cut their funding.
We started then funding them separately and reinstating them as separate authorizations, because they were losing their identity, losing their advocacy, and losing their dollars, and I really hate to go through that miserable experience we had in that winter of discontent, that first two years of Ronald Reagan's administration when education really suffered. Congress has looked at special needs and special populations for a long time and has tried to identify those special needs and those special populations and make sure that we do address them.
Now, Mr. Sprang, in your own school, you don't have a lot of those special populations that we have throughout the Country. In my district, where I taught school--in real life, I was a schoolteacher. I taught in an inner-city school, and we had a large number of special needs and special populations, and the Federal dollars there were extremely important back in the 1960's when I was teaching. I think that that's why we have to be very careful as we listen to this siren cry of block grants that we do lose the advocacy, the identity, and finally, the dollars for that.
I also notice that in the bills recently introduced here, we always say the governor, the governor, the governor. Well, that would be a violation of my State's constitution, I think, the same violation of your State's constitution, and Congress certainly should be sensitive. We have an elected board of education who contracts with a chief State school officer who is in charge of these things. So I think, if anything, we should not put it out on the governor's stump and have him divide it up as he sees fit. It should be those who are in charge, and in some States, the governor is the chief State school officer, I assume. Maybe in some States, I can't think of any, but I do have some concerns about that, and I also have concern that we make certain this is supplemental dollars and not letting Jefferson City or Harrisburg off the hook with their responsibilities to education.
The constitution of the State of Michigan says, ``The legislature shall provide for a system of free and public schools.'' But very often, these supplemental dollars, are used by the legislature as the initial dollars. And if they dont supplement them, we haven't really helped those special needs or special populations at all.
So, I think we should approach this with an idea that it was a siren cry back in 1981, and I think most educators regretted throwing everything to chapter II in 1981, because they lost identity, lost advocacy, and lost dollars.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Kildee. Congressman Payne?
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much. I'm sorry that I've had an irregular day and have been unable really to hear much of the testimony. I'm trying to browse through various parts of this, so I'll be relatively brief.
I just might ask the basic question, and I guess it would be difficult for the gentleman whose school is sort of less typical, but the bill eliminates the target of Federal funds for students in poverty. Now, in our State of New Jersey, there's an Abbott v. Burke lawsuit that talks about every student being entitled to a thorough and efficient education, and the Courts finally had to come in last year to say that there is no such thing as a thorough and efficient education entitled to every student in our State, primarily because of poverty, and the poorest school districts simply have less money to put in education, the wealthier school districts have much more, and that that violates the State constitution.
Now, here we have this bill which would actually go further and eliminate the Federal Government's interest in knowing what happens in States as, like I said, our State constitution just happens to be different than all the 49 other States, because most States do not have, as a part of the founding of that State, the entitlement of a thorough and efficient education, but it did take the couple of hundred years to finally get it in court and have a decision made that there's a violation.
How do you feel, and anyone could try to answer it, how do you think we'll ever sort of close the gap, or do you think that governors or school districts would simply try to emphasize areas where poverty is a factor and, therefore, realizing that students probably are less equipped--if this law eliminates the Federal Government using poverty as a factor, well, where do poor people go? I mean, the gap is just going to get wider and wider. That doesn't help the Nation in a totality, because if you just have a continued gap, you're going to have the uneducated simply bringing down the quality of life in general. And this bill would, in certain areas, I'm sure, by the Federal Government being eliminated from targeting, it will simply go to where, perhaps, the governors feel their political strength happens to be. Could anyone respond to that, if you would?
Mr. Sousa. Well, title I is still in, will be funded.
Mr. Payne. Right.
Mr. Sousa. I look at it this way: If we had the flexibility locally to take funds to help children in our situation in Mobile, we receive many children who are behind when they come to kindergarten, and if we're going to try to make sure that every child is reading at grade level, say, by the third grade, because we know if they don't, if they get past that point, they are facing failure, I think we could take the funds then and concentrate on catch-up time for students who are behind, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, or whatever. You have some dollars that you can make some decisions with to try to help children who are disadvantaged. That's the plus side of this. That's what I'm looking at.
Mr. Payne. Well, as I indicated, I have missed most of the testimony. I know, for example, there is just one program out of all of these that sort of encourages integration of schools, the Magnet School Program, and I just wonder whether, with the lumping together of these programs, what happens to the Magnet School? I guess they would almost cease and desist. Right now there is money that's earmarked for Magnet Schools. Do any of you have them in your area, and number two, do you think this would have an impact on that concept?
Mr. Sousa. We have seven, and it wouldn't impact it. We'd still carry on.
Mr. Spang. And our district is a small district with one high school, so it doesn't apply.
Mr. Payne. Yes, right. Okay.
Mr. Bartman. We have magnet schools in Missouri in the Kansas City area and the St. Louis area, and I think both districts are recipients of magnet school money, and that happens to be money that goes directly to the school. It doesn't go through the State department. The money is significant enough in those instances that if that money was turned into general funding, those two cities have enough other needs that the resources at those Magnet Schools, where they're using those resources, would probably dwindle.
Mr. Payne. Well, thank you, very much. I appreciate your testimonies.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Payne. Congressman Scott?
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Dr. Bartman, I appreciated your comment about why people don't supplant the funding. That's because everybody knows they're going to try to, so you stick it in the bill and prohibit them from doing it, which is why it's fairly routine language, because it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know how people are trying to get tax cuts and trying to balance a budget and all this, and what they're going to do with some extra money.
Superintendent Sousa, you indicated that you did well with some local task forces developing local plans and local budgets, and you were very successful. I'm not sure of whether this is even relevant to this hearing, but I'd be delighted to get copies of those budgets and those recommendations because, apparently, a lot of those plans worked and were very successful in increasing achievement.
Mr. Sousa. Well, I think that they were--the point I was trying to make with that was that we made the decision to drive everything to the local schools, the decisions we made there, and dollars would be spent there, similar to this act, and the point I was trying to make was that with that philosophy, and we were able, in the three year period, to raise test scores 18 percentage points.
Mr. Scott. Well, we'd like to see what some of those recommendations are, because obviously you were very successful in that process.
Mr. Spang, you indicated, you mentioned computers as one of the uses that you would like to see for the money. Is there any value in centralized evaluation of computer programs at the State or national level so that the teachers would have some clue as to which were the better programs, which ones worked, which ones didn't, which ones are overpriced, and which ones you would get a good value for your dollar.
Mr. Spang. I think the application of computers that students would be exposed to, learning how to use programs, and so forth, we're not in the programming business, teaching students how to do the programming, or whatever, but we've got to prepare students to go out into the workforce, where they're using IBM, Macintosh, or whatever. We've got to expose them to the programs that are being used out there. It's not a matter of, do we want to have the Federal Government decide which ones we want to use? We've got to prepare students to use them.
Mr. Scott. So you have within your school the expertise to decide which programs would give you the best value for your money.
Mr. Spang. We do. Yes. We do have our students exposed to all of the--
Mr. Scott. I can tell you that this Congress doesn't have that expertise, because the computer program that our information services has been recommending, I've been having problems with since I first got it. I switched from one to the other, and the other one isn't any better than the first one.
Mr. Spang. Well, your uses may be different than ours, as far as what we're trying to do with it.
Mr. Scott. Well, okay.
Mr. Waltman, you'd indicated that there are lot of things that you could do with as little as $100, it would make a significant difference in the educational experience of your children, in your prepared remarks. I'm sorry I had to walk out. I assume you gave something close to what was prepared. Is there anything in the present law that prohibits the local school system from funding those initiatives?
Mr. Waltman. I'm not prepared to answer that, but I do know, as a classroom teacher, that there's wonderful things out there, and under the present system, it seems futile to even ask for them, because there's not enough dollars, and in the one program that we have at our school--it's a Federal program with the computer for reading. The criteria is set up with who's qualified to use that particular computer. You know, essentially, determine--and we have a student that is struggling right now but doesn't meet the qualifications that were set up in a central place, and we're not allowed to have him use that computer to improve his coursework.
Mr. Scott. My question was, there's nothing in the present law in your local or State government that prohibits the funding for those initiatives. Is that right?
Mr. Waltman. I'm not familiar with those. I'm just familiar with what a classroom teacher--
Mr. Scott. And as a follow-up question would be, other than the title of the bill, what makes you think that you would be able to get those things funded if this bill were to pass?
Mr. Waltman. I don't necessarily think this bill is going to solve all the educational problems that face our Nation, but I do know, as a classroom teacher, any bill that recommends or encourage that more money be funneled to me, as a classroom teacher, will help me teach the students behind me.
Mr. Scott. Well, my mother is a retired teacher, and my sister teaches now, so I know what kinds of small expenses ought to be funded and are not, but if they're not funded now, there is nothing in this bill, other than the title, that would fund those initiatives.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Scott, particularly for filling the role for most of today's hearing as the ranking member of the full committee.
I want to thank our witnesses. I want to conclude by asking them one very simple, blunt question, and that is right from the bill. The Congressman Pitts proposal explicitly prohibits the United States Department of Education, the Federal Department of Education, from promulgating--big word--regulations that would define classroom activities and services. In other words, it leaves that definition to the governors, and hopefully, it would be the governors in collaboration with the chief State school officer and the State legislature. Do you think that prohibition is good policy? That is to say, do you think that that definition of classroom activities and services should be left to State and local governments?
Mr. Sousa. Well, they maybe would have a problem with that, too. For instance, I don't know if tutoring students on Saturdays, after-school tutoring, if that's going to be a classroom activity. It should be, so I think there should be some work done on that area, and a lot of people have some input before that's finalized.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. Mr. Spang?
Mr. Spang. I would look, also, for input from the local school districts up to the State level through whatever process is necessary to insure that meaningful experiences for students are included.
Mr. Riggs. But you would want a bottom-up process which would allow, for example, Mr. Waltman to make his professional views known to his superiors, the school administrator, and from him on to the local school board, from there conceivably to the State capital, rather than some sort of top-down definition emanating from Washington, written by the Department of Education, that says what does or does not constitute classroom activities and services?
Mr. Spang. Yes.
Mr. Riggs. Okay.
Just a couple other clarifications for the record real quick. We did a very quick analysis, and we found about 5 of the 35 programs currently have some sort of poverty factor associated. That is to say that the funding is weighted for poverty. Now, I may be mistaken on that, so we'll do a very detailed analysis to make sure that that is the case, but I wanted to say that for the record.
Secondly, what I'm going to do, because I'm going to offer this to Staff and all members of the full committee, is I'm going to ask the Staff, and I think this would be beneficial to Congressman Pitts, I'm going to ask the Staff to do a run, a computer run, an analysis if you will, of how many school districts are currently receiving funding under these 35 programs which are competitive programs, the very programs that, through the legislation, would be converted into a block grant, and what the average amount received or average amount allocated to each school district under each one of these 35 programs is, because my hunch, and it's strictly a hunch, is that more school districts would receive more money under Congressman Pitts' block grant proposal.
Lastly, Congressman Pitts asked me to clarify that his bill does say that the governor and then the appropriate legal entity provided for in the State constitution would control the funding. I think he made that point fairly clear in response to an earlier question from, I believe it was, Congressman Barrett that posed that question, and lastly, Congressman McIntosh could not attend, but would like to have his remarks included in the record, and if there is no objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. Riggs. Again, for our young people, those bells going off are summoning us to a vote on the House floor. So it's a little bit like a bell during your school day where we have to switch classrooms.
But we want to thank you all again for being here, and we especially appreciate the patience and the testimony of our witnesses.
With that, the full Committee on Education and the Workforce stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:18 p.m., the committee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair]