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Goals 2000: Educate America Act Implementation Status and Issues

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Publication Date: February 1998

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 95-502

Topic: Education (Education financing, facilities, and equipment)


Congress has continued to debate the funding and continuation of Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227), enacted in 1994. As originally enacted, the Goals 2000 education reform framework included codification of National Education Goals; voluntary certification of national education standards; and a grant program for development of state education standards, assessments, and reform of all key features of each state’s elementary and secondary education system. In two states, local districts receive Goals 2000 funds directly from the U.S. Department of Education (ED); in all other states, funds are allocated to state educational agencies for use and distribution to local districts and schools.

Efforts have been made in the Congress to eliminate funding for Goals 2000, in some cases redirecting its funds into an education block grant. Despite such efforts in the 104th and 105th Congresses, funding has continued for Goals 2000, and, in particular, for the state grant program. The FY1997 appropriation level for the state grant program was $476 million, substantially higher than any prior year’s funding; its FY1998 funding fell slightly to $466 million. Although the funding authority in the Goals 2000 statute expires after FY1998, the General Education Provisions Act can automatically extend the program’s funding authority into the 106th Congress.

The Congress has modified the Goals 2000 legislation since its original enactment. The 104th Congress eliminated the following: the authority for a National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC), the requirement that states develop opportunity-to-learn (OTL) standards or strategies (identifying the resources needed for all children to meet performance standards), and the requirement that the U.S. Secretary of Education approve state reform plans. As amended, the legislation permits local school districts, in states not participating in
Goals 2000, to apply to ED for funding, if approved by their state educational agency.

Debate over Goals 2000 has focused on what should be the federal role in elementary and secondary education reform. Goals 2000 seeks to improve state school systems by supporting states’ development of their own standards for content and pupil performance, as well as standards-based assessments. Opponents of Goals 2000 have argued that it would “nationalize” or “federalize” education. For example, although no state was required to submit standards to NESIC or adopt NESIC-certified standards, NESIC was identified by some as a “national school board” that would directly or indirectly impose national standards. Concern in this area was amplified by proposed national history standards that, according to some, lacked balance (these standards have been revised). Opponents of OTL standards said they focused on educational “inputs,” imposing unfunded mandates on states to provide additional resources. Proponents countered that educational reform was sufficiently important for the country to warrant federal support, that standards-based reform promoted high levels of academic performance, and that the program as enacted contained multiple safeguards to prevent federal direction or control over education.