Press Releases

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today said that the new bipartisan focus on debt reduction is “a critical development in ensuring continued economic success.”

Smith noted, “President Clinton strongly emphasized fiscal discipline and paying down the debt in last night’s State of the Union Address, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were very supportive.”

Debt reduction and fiscal discipline have been longtime priorities for Smith. He authored the Honesty in Budgeting Act, which requires the government to stop counting Social Security surpluses as income in the federal budget.

“The Honesty in Budgeting Act was just one of the factors that led to this new bipartisan focus on debt reduction,” said Smith. “Now almost everyone, from the Republican leadership to President Clinton, is committed to balancing the budget without using Social Security and paying down the national debt.”

Smith acknowledges that supporting debt reduction and actually voting to make it happen are two separate things. “With budget surpluses, there will be a lot of temptation to use that money either for tax cuts or spending increases,” he warned. “While I think we can make some additional investments and cut some taxes this year, I will be diligent in ensuring that fiscal discipline is our overriding goal so that we can pay down the debt, leading to lower interest rates and fewer tax dollars being wasted on debt service costs.”

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith today unveiled legislation to restructure the federal role in K-12 education.

“Currently the federal government places too much emphasis on process, bureaucracy, and paperwork, and not nearly enough on flexibility, local control, and results,” Smith said. “We need a system that is more flexible, more controlled by locals, and focused on results. My legislation would do just that.”

Smith will formally introduce the Empowering Local Schools Act (ELSA) upon Congress’s return in late January.

Smith went to Tyee High School, his alma mater, in the Highline School District this morning. He was joined by Highline Superintendent Dr. Joseph McGeehan, a supporter of the bill.

Smith and various Pierce and Thurston County education professionals then introduced the legislation at Franklin Pierce High School this afternoon. “His [Adam Smith’s] proposed bill will add flexibility and enhance the ability of school districts to target local needs,” said Yelm Superintendent Alan Burke. “In Yelm we have been frustrated by the enormous paperwork burden that we endure to capture federal funds in grant programs such as Eisenhower Math and Science and Goals 2000.”

ELSA is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which governs the vast majority of K-12 federal education programs. ESEA was last reauthorized in 1994 and Congress must reauthorize it again this year.

ESEA authorizes more than sixty programs, from broad programs such as Title 1, which provides extra funding for low-income students, to narrow programs such as native Hawaiian education and School-to-Work Opportunities Grant. Smith argues that the current system has created confusion and red tape for local school districts who need federal funding.

“Under current law, some federal education programs are distributed through formulas that take poverty and population into consideration, while others are grant programs that school districts must apply for,” Smith explained. “Then, schools have to document exactly how they’re spending the money in each program. This puts our schools into a straitjacket because they have very little discretion and flexibility. For example, if a school receives funding under the much-touted 100,000 teachers program, but they really need to invest more money into keeping their new teachers instead of hiring brand-new ones, they can’t do it. We need to give local schools more flexibility so that they can tailor federal funding to their school’s needs.”

Smith’s legislation would condense existing programs into six funding streams and send the money directly to local school districts. The funds would be largely distributed through a formula based on poverty and population. “This will basically eliminate school districts’ need to hire professional grant writers so that they can receive federal funding,” Smith noted. “Instead, schools will be able to rely on a certain federal funding level, with the neediest school districts receiving the most money.”

The funding streams would be:

  • Title 1 – Disadvantaged students ELSA retains Title 1 but makes two important changes: it allows schools more flexibility in using Title 1 funds and targets funds more towards low-income schools.
  • Limited English Proficient Students Smith’s legislation consolidates existing programs that focus on non-English speakers (the 12 Bilingual Education grant programs and Emergency Immigrant Education) into one funding stream that gives local schools flexibility in choosing methods of instruction.
  • Professional Development ELSA consolidates existing teacher training and hiring initiatives such as the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, Goals 2000, and the 100,000 Teachers program into one fund to be used for hiring new teachers, teacher training, teacher pay, and lowering class size.
  • Education Reform/Innovative Practices ELSA consolidates other existing ESEA programs, such as Technology in Education programs, the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, school-to-work programs, literacy programs, and after-school programs, into one fund distributed to local schools to be used for a wide variety of priorities based on the school district’s needs.
  • Public School Choice ELSA strengthens federal efforts to assist local school districts’ efforts to promote public school choice. It condenses the current magnet school and charter school laws into one program and increases funding.
  • Impact Aid The legislation maintains current law as it relates to Impact Aid, which supports those school districts that have a large amount of federal property, such as military bases, to make up for the lower property tax base.
  • Accountability ELSA eliminates current law’s program-by-program process-based evaluation and instead includes funding for the state education agency to monitor the use of the federal funds. Local school districts are required to establish five-year goal plans for each of the above categories. States will annually monitor progress towards the goals, and if local school districts are failing to meet their goals, the state must work with the local school district to set up a plan for corrective action. After three years, if the district or school is failing in any category and not taking appropriate corrective action, the state may take over the administration of the school district or individual school

Smith hopes to bring these new ideas into Congress’s debate over ESEA reauthorization. “I think it’s important that we move towards more flexibility, more local control, and less bureaucracy,” he said. “I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that we move in that direction.”

 

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith will speak at a TOGETHER board meeting located at the Lacey City Hall (420 College Street SE) from 12:30 to 1:30.

Smith will briefly update the board on Congressional activity and present a $500 check to the TOGETHER program. The check is from the K-Mart Kids Race Against Drugs program. The Kmart Kids Race Against Drugs tour was created in 1996 and provides $500 to a charity in the name of each Congressional participant. Participants race around a track in a small motorized vehicle and are timed. Smith chose to donate the $500 to the TOGETHER program.

TOGETHER is a broad coalition of Thurston County organizations committed to at-risk children and families. They do this through providing access services and programs in the apartment complexes in which these families live., These neighborhood centers provide a positive learning environment for children in after-school hours. Services provided include parenting classes, after-school tutoring, conflict resolution training, alcohol and other drug prevention, job search skills, recreation activities, and personal safety instruction. TOGETHER partners include the Yelm Police Department, the Olympian, Community Youth Services, Providence/St. Peter Hospital, all of the school districts, Associated Ministries, Thurston County Sheriffs office, the County Health Department, YMCA, Boy Scouts, United Way, and Associated Ministries.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith (D-Washington) is joining Senator Joe Lieberman to support a revamp of the federal role in K-12 education and will introduce legislation in the House to do so when Congress reconvenes in 2000.

“The federal role in education has become too bureaucratic, diluted, and ineffective,” said Smith. “It’s time that Congress takes a comprehensive approach to how we can better serve our children.”

Smith’s approach will condense existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs into broad categories of federal spending, target federal funds more heavily towards low-income students, eliminate or streamline federal regulations, and focus on results instead of process.

“After meeting with hundreds of teachers, administrators, and parents in my district, I learned that our federal education system is very archaic,” explained Smith. “For example, we have several different programs to make sure that kids learn English. School districts have to spend far too much time applying for these programs, jumping through different hoops to make sure they keep the funding, and administering the programs. I think it makes far more sense to have one pot of money that goes to schools, based on poverty and non-English speaking population, to help those kids learn English.”

Smith argues that we should allow more flexibility in how schools use federal funds. “Currently, the federal government provides about 6 percent of the funding for schools but imposes most of the regulations,” said Smith. “While we must ensure that kids’ and teachers’ rights and safety are protected, we have to give local communities more power to innovate and teach kids.”

Instead of process-based evaluation, Smith’s approach will judge schools on results. “If schools don’t improve, there are consequences,” Smith noted. “I’m proud to be working with Senator Lieberman on a dramatic change in the role of the federal government in education, a role that should be far more thoughtful and effective. The underlying principle is simply this: target the funds better, attach fewer strings, and demand results.”

“This is one step in a long legal process. In fact, these issues may not even be relevant once we finally have an outcome. However, it is important to note that the technology industry, and Microsoft in particular, have contributed greatly to the value and quality of goods available to American consumers, and that is largely because of their ability to continuously innovate and grow. I feel it is very important that Microsoft maintains their ability to innovate, and I am hopeful that the ultimate outcome of this trial will give Microsoft the continued freedom to do so.”