Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Floundering at the Ed Dept

The announcement a few weeks ago by the Dept. of Education that vouchers would be given to hurricane evacuees made big news. And then it virtually disappeared. I search for education stories all the time but there was very little written that shed any new insight on what was going on.

Into the void steps The Hill which reports that there is very little support in Congress for the controversial measure. Specifically, Sen. Enzi (R-WY) appears to be in opposition to the plan:

When Education Secretary Margaret Spellings laid out the White House’s $2.6 billion education package for displaced Gulf Coast students, $488 million of which could be used to send children to private school, public-school officials decried what they called the opportunism of using a national crisis to push through a perennial conservative priority.

But Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, so far appears to be siding with his top Democrat, Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), and keeping vouchers out of Katrina relief. Spellings followed by downplaying the vouchers plan less than a week after its introduction, calling it a temporary and narrow measure.

The House, though, remains a wildcard:

Even so, some lawmakers were not prepared to entirely rule out school vouchers for the migrating children of Katrina. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a centrist and a swing vote on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said he would consider easing his usual resistance to the notion.

“In this unique circumstance … I don’t want to say I’m opposed to it, as I might be typically,” Castle said, pointing out that he did support vouchers for students in the District of Columbia.

Even with Castle's support, the Bush Administration would have to convince the Senate to adopt the measure which seems unlikely.

The Hill also presents a bigger issue: the lack of any coherent agenda from the Ed. Department:

“The communication taking place is not clear, not precise, between Congress and the administration, and we feel it’s very important that we’re very clear,” said Vincent Ferrandino, executive director of the National Associations of Elementary School Principals.

The White House’s unveiling of a massive education drive earlier this year to extend No Child Left Behind mandates to high schools was especially befuddling to public-school officials, as little support for it existed in Congress and the administration stopped touting the plan soon after its presidential introduction.

“It does seem like a disconnect,” said Stephen DeWitt, a lobbyist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which has sent mass mailings to drum up senatorial accolades for the voucher-free Enzi-Kennedy bill. The Department of Education, DeWitt noted, “is immediately rejected by Congress, and there’s no conversation going forward.”

I think this is symptomatic of the Bush White House: disorganized, unclear, ineffective-- in a word, floundering.

Considering how bad they've been on education policy so far and they're consistent support for vouchers, let's hope it stays that way.


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