PHIL PONCE: The 106th Congress has not released a fiscal year 2000 budget, but on the first day of the session, the new Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, called for more spending on education. And the former high school wrestling coach made clear his stance on who should call the shots.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT, Speaker of the House of Representatives: In my 16 years as a teacher, I learned that most of the decisions having to do with education are best left to the people closest to the situation--parents, teachers, school board members. What should the federal government's role be? It should be to see that as many education dollars go directly to the classroom where they will do the most good.
PHIL PONCE: But two weeks later, in his State of the Union address, President Clinton said the federal government should do more than just give schools money; it should demand accountability on how that money is spent.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We must do better. Now each year, the national government invests more than $15 billion in our public schools. I believe we must change the way we invest that money, to support what works and to stop supporting what does not work.
(School teacher): Can I have a silent hand for the first step that I gave?
PHIL PONCE: In what the administration is calling a "sea change in national education policy," the president proposed legislation called the Education Accountability Act. It would require states and school districts receiving federal funds to do five things:
Put an end to social promotion, the practice of promoting students to the next grade even if they aren't academically ready. Students who haven't met certain standards would have to be held back. Turn around schools with the worst performance ratings or to shut them down; the act calls for $200 million to help states meet this goal. Require teachers to pass performance tests in the subjects they teach. Require states to give parents annual report cards for each school and school district so parents can judge how the schools are performing. And fight the breakdown of classroom discipline, the Education Accountability Act would require states and school districts to adopt and implement so-called sensible discipline policies.
States that failed to comply in these areas could lose federal funding. Mr. Clinton also asked Congress to help communities build or modernize 5,000 schools across the country, and he also called for funding 1,900 more public charter schools for a total of 3,000 by early next century.
PHIL PONCE: Two key players in the federal education debate are with us now: Secretary of Education Richard Riley; and Republican William Goodling of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Welcome, gentlemen.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman, the president says he wants to improve the quality of the nation's schools and to do that there has to be greater accountability. How do you react to his plan?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Chair, House Education Committee: Well, I was the only one that jumped up when he made that statement during his State of the Union. The only time I got up, but I shouted "Amen." You know, I'm beginning to educate Democrats after 24 years. They're beginning to say things that I've said for a long time. Where is the accountability in Title I? Where's the accountability in Head Start and on and on and on? But that was heresy to Democrats up until this particular time.
PHIL PONCE: And accountability in the areas that he's talking about and the way that he plans to -- he would like to implement it.
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: The devil could be, of course, in the implementation. The president was speaking as a governor, and what he was saying as a governor certainly should have been said. Now, keep in mind, of that $15 billion, $7.5 billion of that is spent on Title I. There's no question we should be able to do anything under the sun to improve Title I?
PHIL PONCE: And Title I being funds specifically for -
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: For children who are disadvantaged, as far as education, because that's where most of our money goes, that's where the problem comes. Can you deal with the rest of the school when all of our money really goes for disadvantaged students? So when you talk about it Title I, amen.
PHIL PONCE: But getting back to these other specific areas, what's your reaction to the level of involvement that the federal government might engage in?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: As I said, there's where the problem could be. The devil could be in the implementation. If that means a lot of regulations and red tape and so on from the secretary, I don't want any of that -- and neither does anybody back in the local school district. The point I'm trying to make is our money specifically goes to disadvantaged and whatever we can do to make sure that those children get a better cut than they've been getting for 20-some years, I'm for it. However, the rest of the education program is funded by local government and by state, and we don't have any right to dictate to them how it is done.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Secretary, some people are saying, following up on what the congressman just said, that if this act is implemented the way the president envisions that the president will be the nation's superintendent and congress will be the nation's board of education. Will the federal government be engaging in that kind of micromanaging?
RICHARD RILEY, Secretary of Education: Well, of course not. And we have always supported accountability and the congressman mentions Title I -- I'd say right at 98 percent of Title I dollars get to the school district. And for all of k-12 programs around --over 95 percent of the money gets to the school district. You don't hear that out a lot, but that's the truth. We're for local control, but nobody, nobody -
PHIL PONCE: And, again, you're talking about Title I as being money for needy kids?
RICHARD RILEY: Well, Title I and these other programs, the social promotion issue and the low-performing schools. Nobody is for unqualified teachers. That's what the president's talking about. No one is for having low performing, non-performing schools sending federal dollars in there under Title I or whatever and having them go on and on and on and on. Nobody is for continuing that. Nobody is for passing students right on through school who are not qualified and who are not ready to perform in society. That's what social promotion amounts to. Many of these ideas, all of them, in fact, -- social promotion, low-performing schools, report cards, discipline codes -- are things we gleaned from the states. And where the states are using those accountability features, they're doing well. And our job, we think, then, is to expand what's working well, as the president says, what works well we ought to try to expand; what doesn't work, we ought to try to stop.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman, the different things that the secretary just mentioned, the different features, are you comfortable with all those?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Sure, I'm comfortable with all those and as he said, the states are doing it. And you know why they're doing it more than any other reason is because of the Title VI money that we send out. And you know what the president put in his budget?
PHIL PONCE: And what is Title VI money?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: He zeroed it out. It gives them the opportunity, the flexibility, to make the reforms, and that's how they've come about and that's why the states are so far ahead. PHIL PONCE: Are those block grants?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Block grants.
PHIL PONCE: Title VI, where the states just get money and where they have a lot of discretion to use it?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Just as they did in Goals 2000.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman, one of the arguments the president makes is that if a private company were investing $15 billion in an enterprise, that company would certainly expect some accountability and some controls, and that the federal government should do the same. Your reaction to that.
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: No question about it and that's why I said, where we put that money is for disadvantaged youngsters. We don't have anything to do with the rest of the operation of the school. So we don't have a responsibility for accountability there. The accountability responsibility is the local district and the state. That's why I said he was speaking as a governor. We have it when you talk about Title I because most of -- although some states have compensatory programs themselves -- most of that Title I money comes from the federal level. So we should be watching that money. As I said, for 20 years in the minority, I kept telling them, "Do you know what you're getting? Do you have any idea of how well we're doing?" First two studies came out on Head Start and said "they don't have a head start, they don't even have an even start." Study after study - including the last one that the Department just did in California in Title I says, boy, we've got problems.
PHIL PONCE: Just to make sure I'm not misunderstanding you, are you saying you're comfortable with the level of control that could -
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Oh, no. No, no, that isn't what I said at all. I'm comfortable with the level of control when you're dealing with Title I, which is money that is coming from the federal government. But when you get into a lot of the other things that he is talking about, you can't dictate social promotion to the rest. You can demand everything you want to demand from Title I, but you can't dictate to the rest of the school. You can't dictate quality. I mean, every item he had is a Republican initiative, that's what made me so happy, that's why I jumped up and applauded. But, again, he also then talks about new programs that are duplicate of programs that presently exist. And, you know, I made charts and that's what I planned to do; I don't think he did before he made these proposals because he would notice that education technology, boy, we've spent -- we've upped better than 2000 percent money going into technology as far as schools are concerned. Educational technology software, there's a program for that. Project Serve, School Emergency Response to Violence - there are three programs for that, so right down the line - you know -- we need to take the programs that we presently have and we presently fund and reform them; we don't need new programs to duplicate them.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Secretary?
RICHARD RILEY: Well -
PHIL PONCE: Is there some dictating that's going to be going on as the congressman worries?
RICHARD RILEY: Well, let me speak generally to the subject. The congressman said that the states are doing these things, therefore, we ought not to be dictating to them. I would point out that for social promotion, I think 19 states have that. For the report card, I think 36 states have it. It's not like they all have it. And we're sending lots of federal dollars into the schools, and then if you have a policy there that is totally without responsibility where you can have no accountability, then obviously I don't think the people would say for us to keep throwing money in there and having no accountability.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Secretary, how do you respond to the argument that, yes, the federal government is contributing $15 billion across the country but that amounts to only somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of a school district's budget and, therefore, the federal government is asking too much for what they're contributing?
RICHARD RILEY: Well, what the federal government is trying to do is to expand on what's working in other states using information that we have gleaned from the states. And who out there, state governor, congressman or whatever, that wants to continue non-performing schools and sending lots of federal dollars in there? That really doesn't make good sense. So what we're saying, yes, federal dollars go into all those, but it's not a large percentage -- it's a right big percentage when you have this bill is talking about the real poor schools - for disadvantaged schools a right good bit of federal dollars go in there. We've got to see to it that those dollars are spent in an accountable way. What we're into is children learning, that's what's important. And if they're not learning and don't have a system that calls for them learning, then they ought to change it.
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: And you see, the problem with that is I have school districts, for instance, that get less than 1/2 percent of any of their funds from the federal government. Now, the way he recited -
PHIL PONCE: But with those school districts, they would have the same requirements as school districts -
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Yes. He's saying we'll require states and school districts to end social promotion. We'll require students to get more help. We'll require you to adopt performance examinations. We'll require -- you see, you can't go into a school district that's getting less than one half 1 percent and tell them, "you've got to meet these state -- federal mandates."
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Secretary, is that too many "we'll requires" for school districts not receiving that much money.?
RICHARD RILEY: As the president is saying, we're getting serious about accountability and I don't think there's any question about that -- and we're not trying to portray it in any other way. But I would say this, if you have a situation where a school is non-performing, we, as everyone knows, would come in and try to help them to get that school to perform well. We would do anything we can. We have money in here, some $200 million to help them do that. In social promotion we're recommending that, we're recommending $600 million for after school and summer school programs to help with that. We would prod, we would help, we would urge all ways in the world to make sure these children are learning. Then if they're not and they refuse accountability, then we have no other choice but to pull back on administrative funds or something. You can't keep pumping federal dollars into a non-performing school. And we're not going to do that.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Congressman, quickly, do you expect that some form of an accountability act will pass?
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Oh, yes. I'm sure of that. You know, as I said, I've been asking for 24 years to do something about accountability in the programs that we finance. All I'm pointing out here is what the president's talking about is everybody's school district and every school and that is not our business. Our business is to deal and make sure that the disadvantaged are getting a quality program. They haven't been getting it. I've been preaching that and so I'm glad to hear that others are now saying they haven't been getting that. Let me give you one example -
PHIL PONCE: I'm afraid -
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: We're out of time?
PHIL PONCE: I apologize. I'm sorry, gentlemen.
REP. WILLIAM F. GOODLING: Quality in reading.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman, thank you.
RICHARD RILEY: Let me say this, I have enjoyed working with the chairman, and we work very well together on important things, on literacy, teacher quality and other things. And we'll continue to work together.
PHIL PONCE: Gentlemen, thank you both.