Federal Power Grab

Nothing in life is more important than how we raise our children.”

In recent years, we have seen and defeated a concerted effort to nationalize health care. The Clinton administration learned from defeat and is moving incrementally to accomplish the same goals through school-based health clinics.

They have adapted those lessons to education, another area they are determined to nationalize. It will require constant attention and efforts of all thoughtful Americans to preserve what local control we still have and thus preserve our democracy.

Chief among the dangerous legislation that is moving us toward a federal education system is the 1994 Goals 2000: Educate America Act. This Act put the federal government in the business of certifying education standards that must be met by the states.

The most insidious feature is that these new standards developed by social engineers seek changes in student behavior and attitudes. Parents are trained to accept these new standards through school-based training centers where students and families receive social services. Parents are no longer recognized as having the authority to guide their children’s lives and careers. They are considered, at best, to be in partnership with the federal government and the appointed boards the government is setting up.

After Goals 2000 the next step toward nationalization was the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWA) of May, 1994. This law implemented the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) Report, produced by the Departments of Labor and Education along with some elements of big business. The report refers to students as “human resources” to be developed by government and business. STW helps to create a “world-class” workforce development system through our schools. A labor market information system will predict what jobs will be available in the future. Students and unemployed adult workers will be trained to fill those jobs.

These goals have been woven into a very complex plan involving varied legislation. When people try to understand what is going on, they find it difficult to grasp important aspects of this plan. These include reforms bent on changing the goals of education by switching priorities from traditional academics to job training, social engineering, health care through school-based clinics, and one-stop career centers for adults and students, with a top-down planned workforce. Several pieces of legislation have been passed to support this plan, using Education, Labor, and Health & Human Services legislation to build the structure for this complex, interwoven plan. Other legislation building on what has already been accomplished is still pending.

The lure for local school districts to participate in this grandiose scheme is federal grants. Local education officials find them irresistible. It all sounds so progressive and visionary but it is transforming our whole education system into a federalized program of behavior modification at the expense of traditional core values and rigorous academic standards. Federal grants to help fund Medicaid health care, along with promises of fuller employment and federal support programs—including day care, transportation, adult job training, job services, and, in some cases, even housing—have convinced all governors to cooperate with the federal planners. Government will control education, health care, and the workforce through Clinton’s Goals 2000/STW plan.

Lest the picture I paint be too bleak, let me point out that there are attempts being made to repeal Goals 2000. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) introduced an amendment to defund Goals 2000, STW, the National Education Goals Panel, and the National Skill Standards Board, along with $4 billion in other federally mandated programs. Instead of spending these funds at the federal level, they would be given to local education agencies to spend without federal mandates. This measure passed the Senate on a vote of 51-49. President Clinton threatened a veto rather than accept defunding of his education/labor/health plan. Because of the threatened veto, Congressman John Porter (R-IL) recommended dropping Senator Gorton’s legislation from the FY 1998 Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act.

One of the most disappointing developments was the defeat of the Istook/Manzullo amendment in the House, requiring federally funded health clinics to give written notice to parents at least five days before giving contraceptive devices, including controversial injections and implants, to minors. This altogether appropriate amendment was defeated by a substitute amendment offered by Congressman Porter that only required health centers to “encourage” family involvement rather than mandating notice.

Once more, parents are left out. Most politicians run on a platform of family values, but in defeating the Istook/Manzullo original amendment they defeated family values as well.

Two other amendments deserve notice. One is the Goodling amendment that would prohibit federal funding for national tests for students in elementary schools. This amendment passed the House overwhelmingly and a compromise was reached in the Conference Committee because of a threatened veto by President Clinton. The compromise agreement gives the National Assessment Governing Board authority over the tests but prohibits trial runs during the current fiscal year, which lasts until September 30, 1998. The hold on field-testing represents a victory for Goodling, who insisted that no money should be spent on testing. The agreement also directs the National Academy of Sciences to study the tests while they are being developed and to recommend whether new national tests should replace commercially available tests and state tests. This essentially postpones the White House plan to fully administer the test until the spring of 1999. There is a legitimate fear that the intended consequences of national testing will be a general lowering of standards.

Lastly, Senator Paul Coverdell (R-GA) introduced an education IRA amendment to the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. This amendment would have provided families with savings incentives and empowered parents to prioritize their children’s educational needs. However, when this legislation went to the Conference Committee, it was also dropped because President Clinton threatened to veto the entire bill. Children cannot be controlled as easily by government when they are in private schools. Senator Coverdell has now introduced this legislation as a separate bill, S. 1133, the Parent and Student Savings Account PLUS Act. In the House, Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and Congressman Bill Archer’s version of Senator Coverdell’s bill passed by a Yea-Nay vote of 230-198. This legislation should be adopted in order to give parents the greatest choices and the most flexibility as they seek educational opportunities that will help their children achieve their fullest potential. Unfortunately, President Clinton is expected to veto this legislation. It remains to be seen whether his veto would be overridden in both Houses.

People seeking to preserve a traditional values system and who want their children to learn a curriculum that will enhance personal development have much to be concerned about. If Americans would take a real interest in what is happening in our educational system, perhaps we could turn this juggernaut around.

The education of the nation’s young people is too important to be left to a bureaucratic elite whose idea of what is best for America dates back to the French Revolution. Control is what they are after and they will get it if we don’t pay strict attention and voice our concerns to our elected officials.

  • Henry J. Hyde

    Henry John Hyde (April 18, 1924 – November 29, 2007), an American politician, was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 2007, representing the 6th District of Illinois, an area of Chicago's northwestern suburbs which included O'Hare International Airport. He chaired the Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001, and the House International Relations Committee from 2001 to 2007. He gained national attention for his leadership role in managing the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

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