The United States Conference of Mayors: Celebrating 75 Years

Senate Debates Ed-Flex Bill--Class Size Reduction Amendment Proposed

By Josie Hathway

Making progress in America's public schools is a top priority for mayors and the 106th Congress. One of the first items on the agenda for the new Congress is the expansion of the Education Flexibility Partnership Demonstration Program known as the Ed-Flex bill. The Senate is currently debating its version of Ed-Flex, S. 280, The Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, while the House is marking-up a mirror version, HR 800.

The Ed-Flex bill would expand the current Ed-Flex program to all states to allow school systems to waive requirements of certain federal education programs, including Title I, in exchange for increased accountability for results. Currently Ed-Flex is authorized for 12 states who have had to demonstrate that they are raising student achievement. These states are Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Vermont.

Though there is broad bi-partisan support for the measure, a group of Democratic amendments will be introduced to ensure accountability and to build on the President's education initiatives. One such amendment that will be offered by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (MA) and Senator Patty Murray (WA), proposes to authorize an additional $11.4 billion over six years to complete the President's class size reduction initiative to hire 100,000 teachers and reduce class size in the early grades down to a national average of 18 students. Mayors strongly support this initiative. Last year the Congress appropriated $1.2 billion as a down payment on the President's class size reduction initiative to help communities hire approximately 30,000 teachers. Republican leaders have urged Democrats to hold their amendments until the Senate considers the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization this summer. Extensive debate is expected on the measure although passage is anticipated.