May 2, 2001

Education Bills Start to Move in Congress

WASHINGTON D.C.—"It is critical for home schoolers to be ready to react if our freedoms are threatened," says Doug Domenech, Executive Director of the National Center for Home Education. "These bills can either help or hurt us. We just have to watch what happens."

Tuesday the Senate voted 96-3 to begin debating legislation (S.1) that would overhaul national education policies. The three Democrats who voted against taking up the bill--Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana--wanted to hold off until Democrats reached agreements with the White House on funding levels for new education programs and on legislation related to policy issues.

Democrats want at least $8.8 billion more for the programs in the bill. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) said administration officials are moving closer to a $4 billion increase, up from their previous offer of $2.6 billion.

Meanwhile in the House, Education and Workforce Chairman John A. Boehner (R-OH) and ranking committee Democrat George Miller (CA) met with other committee members later Tuesday to discuss a tentative compromise on their education bill (H.R. 1) scheduled for markup today.

The compromise includes a provision that would allow low-income parents with children in chronically failing schools to use vouchers to transfer the children to a private school, but Democrats believe they have the votes to delete that provision.

The draft also contains a limited "Straight A's" program that would empower school districts to decide how to spend half of the federal education money they receive. Committee sources said the compromise omits federal aid to faith-based, after-school programs and other riders that had been supported by conservative groups. Those include a ban on federal financing for classes on preventing hate crimes.

HSLDA is working to improve our home school protections currently in the bill. If these protections are stripped out, a nation wide alert will be issued.