House Subcommittee Demands That U.S. Education Secretary Move Beyond Rhetoric
[The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 April 2002]
Nancy Pelosi asks Rod Paige to do his best Jesus impression
By RICHARD MORGAN
Washington – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that drafts the federal education budget lobbed an array of complaints at Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige at a hearing on Wednesday. Democrats complained about the meager budget proposal the Education Department has offered for student-aid programs, while the panel's Republican chairman warned that the Bush administration was condemning the department to another 20 years of fruitless effort.
Rep. Ralph Regula, a Ohio Republican and chairman of the committee, set the confrontational tone at the meeting's onset by saying that the department has "little to show" for the 20 years it has existed. "I guess I'm worried about your replacement 20 years down the road coming in with the same complaint," he told Mr. Paige.
The panel's top Democrat, Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, then expressed deep frustration with what he characterized as the administration's hollow rhetoric. President Bush's budget, he said, was "a prescription for benign neglect" that ignored the "economic tsunami" of the recession and its resulting substantial cuts to state-college systems, including his home state's University of Wisconsin System. "Both Clinton and [George H.W. Bush] promised the moon with education and missed it by a country mile. And you're going to miss it, too," he told Mr. Paige. Mr. Obey added that Mr. Bush's budget continued Washington's "sorry record" of "business as usual: big promises with nothing to back it up."
Lamenting what she called the "flat or decreasing" number of undergraduate degrees awarded in mathematics and science since 1987, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, asked how the "no child left behind" pledge that Mr. Paige made when he became education secretary had turned into the "millions of children left behind budget." When Mr. Paige began to answer with statistics from 1994, Ms. Pelosi interrupted: "Excuse me? Can we just skip to the last three months? I'd really like to know how you adequately fund education with a $7-billion shortfall," a reference to the discrepancy between the sum authorized for education and the amount actually appropriated. She added, "That would make the miracle of the fishes and loaves look like the minor leagues."
Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat, in discussing funds for the TRIO programs to help disadvantaged students attend college, said that "level funding is the equivalent of a cut" and asked Mr. Paige to discuss how he would make teacher education at historically black colleges and universities "more substantial." Mr. Paige did not respond to the teacher-education question but defended his "complete faith" in the budget and explained his larger philosophy. "What we need to measure is results, not how much money we spend," he said. "I have problems with the assumption that, if we spend more, we achieve more."
Asked for his own estimate of the amount of money needed to satisfy President Bush's educational goals, Mr. Paige said it was undeterminable because "it is a factor of the leadership and effectiveness of entities during the implementation process."
The representatives responded by repeatedly denouncing what they suggested were misguided practices on the part of the Education Department and the White House. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told Mr. Paige pointedly: "It is not enough to have the rhetoric," adding, "I'd like to see the testimony from your time as superintendent in Houston where you said, 'Give me less money and I'll give you better results.'"
back to home page