106th Congress Wrap-Up
In the final weeks of the 106th Congress, several issues important to home school families saw action. HSLDA expects Congress to hold a lame-duck session later this year to resolve several appropriations bills.
-Home School Resolution
-Disabled Home Schoolers
-Department of Education: Waste and Fraud
-House Leadership Nixes Education Budget Deal
Home School Resolution
On September 14, Congressman Bob Schaffer (R-CO) introduced a measure that recognizes home school parents and students for their contributions to American education and culture by declaring October 1-7, 2000, National Home Education Week. Congressman Schaffer, with the assistance of Colorado home school leader Kevin Lundberg and HSLDA, drafted the language. Last year, the United States Senate passed a similar resolution.
Read Home School Resolution 578 at http://www.hslda.org/docs/000002/00000272.asp.
HSLDA has been fighting to close a loophole through which the Clinton administration has stubbornly continued developing a national test. Earlier this year, we persuaded Congress to insert language closing this loophole into H.R. 4141, the Opportunities to Protect and Invest in Our Nations Students bill. Unfortunately, the OPTIONS bill died after passing the House education committee. The good news is that it appears that the same testing prohibition language was accepted over the objections of the White House in the final draft of the Labor/HHS/Ed Appropriations bill. (That bill is still pending.)
Disabled Home Schoolers
HSLDA has been fighting another issueending discrimination against home schoolers who seek special education related services or equipment from public schools under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). This fall, we attempted to convince House/Senate Conferees to include language to fix this problem in the fiscal year 2001 Labor/HHS/Ed Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful, so HSLDA will continue this fight in the 107th Congress.
Department of Education: Waste and Fraud
On October 25, the House Education and Workforce Committee questioned U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley about waste and fraud recently discovered in the Department of Education (ED).
This hearing is one in a series of ongoing investigations of problems within the ED. The Department has failed two agency-wide audits conducted by outside firms and is expected to fail the next one as well. Primary auditing firm Earnest and Young failed the ED for several internal control weaknesses including overspending certain accounts.
The committee questioned Riley about a Justice Department report that $1.9 million in Impact Aid funds intended for two school districts in South Dakota was stolen and diverted to private bank accounts. Other allegations included ED employee fraud of more than $1 million since 1997through improper equipment procurement and false overtime reports.
Furthermore, the committee investigated Secretary Rileys recent travel at taxpayer expense to education events in 10 congressional districts where House Democrats face close elections. He denied any wrongdoing or intention to support these candidates campaigns. He also refused to discuss two other recently discovered fraud cases, insisting that public disclosure was inappropriate at this point.
The problems brought to the forefront during this hearing only add more good reasons for dismantling this unconstitutional federal agency.
House Leadership Nixes Education Budget Deal
Shortly following an agreement between White House and Republican negotiators on this years Education Appropriations bill, GOP leadership nixed the deal. Congressmen Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Tom DeLay (R-TX) said that they were willing to work through elections to come to an acceptable compromise, but that the proposed level of education spending was unacceptable.
According to the October 31 Washington Post, the now-dead Education Appropriations bill would have increased federal education spending by 16 percent, escalating from $37.1 billion to $43 billion. This included $1 billion for after school programs, $1.3 billion in school repair funds requested by President Clinton, and $4.1 billion given to the Democrats for their own educational priorities.
HSLDA opposes a large federal role in education and believes all federal education spending should be declared unconstitutional one day.