SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 60
March 18, 1996
|FROM:||William C. Bosher, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
|SUBJECT:||Questions regarding Goals 2000|
On March 11, the 1996 General Assembly adopted an outstanding budget for public schools in the 1996-98 biennium. The General Assembly, building on the proposed budget of Governor Allen, provided unprecedented state support for the Standards of Quality and for major initiatives relating to at-risk students, educational technology and assessment of student performance on high academic standards. The combined efforts of the Governor and the General Assembly are well deserving of the recent bipartisan expressions of praise and the gratitude of those working on behalf of the students in Virginia's public schools. Many of you have raised questions about the status of the highly publicized debate around "Goals 2000." This memorandum is intended to respond to those questions. First, there is no reference in the budget to Goals 2000 by name or public law citation. Even though this issue was the focus of much discussion, the language in the Appropriation Act states: G. Upon the passage by eighty-five or more local school boards of resolutions requesting such, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall, on behalf of local school divisions, apply by June 30, 1996 for federal funds as specified by the local resolution which are, or may become, available pursuant to federal legislation to support local school division efforts in the areas of teacher training, curriculum development and the purchase of instructional materials related to implementing the Standards of Learning. No funds received under this provision shall be retained by the Department of Education but all such funds shall be distributed to requesting local school divisions pursuant to the requirements of the federal program. For purposes of this item, the Superintendent of Public Instruction is hereby designated as the "State Educational Agency" under the provisions of any such federal legislation and any successor act or amendment thereto. The provisions of this paragraph shall be effective upon passage of this act. SUPTS. MEMO NO. 60 March 18, 1996 Page 2 As a result of this language amendment, many of you have shared your confusion about whether or not your local boards should be considering a resolution to request funding under Goals 2000. First, please remember that the budget as a whole, including this language amendment, will not be effective until signed into law by the Governor. The Governor may sign, veto, offer amendments to, or make item vetoes to the budget bill. Final action on the budget is expected within thirty days following the April 17, 1996 reconvened session of the General Assembly. Second, you should be aware that opinions vary regarding legislative intent. The budget bill originally passed by the House of Delegates mandated participation in Goals 2000, relying upon representations by federal officials and other indications that there were "no strings" attached to these funds. I think it is fair to say that the Senate was more skeptical about the absence of federal "strings"; the budget bill originally passed by the Senate did not mandate or authorize participation in Goals 2000, and Senate conferees opposed inclusion of the House's mandate of participation. The budget conferees from both houses eventually agreed to the above-quoted language amendment as a compromise. Despite this uncertainty, the following is clear: o Virginia may be entitled to $6.6 million dollars in this second year of the Goals 2000 program, and these funds must be requested no later than June 30, 1996; o The language adopted by the 1996 General Assembly requires that all available funds be allocated to local school divisions; o Federal legislation requires that grants to local school divisions be awarded on a competitive basis; therefore, there is no guarantee that all divisions that apply will receive grants, nor has the amount of any grant yet been determined. Under the provisions of the language amendment to the 1996-98 budget, local school boards may act on a resolution to request the Superintendent of Public Instruction to apply to the U. S. Department of Education for Goals 2000. While Virginia would need to apply by June 30 to receive these funds, there has been no schedule set for submitting local applications or awarding local grants. SUPTS. MEMO NO. 60 March 18, 1996 Page 3 To facilitate discussion by your board, I am including a copy of the relevant sections of the federal law, Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Importantly, before any local school division may receive a grant under the Goals 2000 law, the local school board must commit to develop, and submit for State approval, a "local improvement plan" that satisfies the requirements of the Goals 2000 law. Section 309 of the federal law sets forth specific and detailed requirements that must be satisfied in the development and implementation of each "local improvement plan." The requirements include the following: o The local school board must create a broad-based panel, comprised as specified in Section 309(a)(3)(A), to develop the "local improvement plan." o The "local improvement plan" must "address districtwide educational improvement, directed at enabling all students to meet the State content standards and State student performance standards" (defined in the budget language approved by the 1996 General Assembly to be "teacher training, curriculum development and the purchase of instructional materials related to implementing the Standards of Learning"). o The "local improvement plan" must set forth a strategy for "(i) ensuring that all students have a fair opportunity to learn; (ii) improving teaching and learning; (iii) improving governance and management; (iv) generating, maintaining, and strengthening parental and community involvement; and (v) expanding improvements throughout the local educational agency." o The "local improvement plan" must "promote the flexibility of local schools in developing plans which address the particular needs of their school and community and are consistent with the local improvement plan." o The "local improvement plan" must "describe a process of broad-based community participation in the development, implementation and evaluation of the local improvement plan." SUPTS. MEMO NO. 60 March 18, 1996 Page 4 o The "local improvement plan" must describe how the local school board will implement specific programs for "identifying the most pressing needs facing students and their families with regard to social services, health care, nutrition, and child care, and entering into partnerships with public and private nonprofit agencies to increase the access of students and families to coordinated nonsectarian services in a school setting or at a nearby site." o The panel established pursuant to Section 309(a)(3)(A) of the Goals 2000 law must continue in existence after development of the "local improvement plan" and must be informed of progress on the "local improvement plan" by the local school board, must review the plan and the progress made, must determine if revisions in the plan should be recommended to the local school board, and must "periodically report such determination to the public." o No more than five percent of the grant funds may be used for "administrative expenses." o At least 50 percent of the grant funds provided by a local school board to individual schools must be made available to "schools with a special need for such assistance, as indicated by a high number or percentage of students from low-income families, low student achievement, or other similar criteria." The language amendment adopted by the General Assembly provides for the Superintendent of Public Instruction to apply for Goals 2000 funds "on behalf of local school divisions" who request such action by resolution. I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that, in order to insure effectiveness for purposes of the budget language, any resolution passed by a local school board must, inter alia, set forth the local school board's commitment to satisfy each of the requirements specified in Section 309 of the federal Goals 2000 law, including but not limited to, those set forth above. I am also advised that the Office of the Attorney General reviews legislation for any conflicts with constitutional or federal statutory law, but that this review has not been completed with respect to the budget language cited here. SUPTS. MEMO NO. 60 March 18, 1996 Page 5 Importantly, however, the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of House Appropriations was advised by a federal official that there are "no strings" attached to funds provided under Goals 2000. Therefore, some local school boards may not wish to request Goals 2000 funding if required to comply with all of the restrictions in Section 309, but may wish to request such funds if the U.S. Department of Education provides a complete and legally enforceable waiver of all such restrictions. We are unable to offer guidance at this point as to the likelihood of obtaining, or the legal effect of, such a waiver. Therefore, the Office of the Attorney General has recommended that any local school board, which adopts a resolution requesting Goals 2000 funds, states specifically that the request is either (a) contingent upon obtaining a full and enforceable waiver of federal restrictions, or (b) made without regard to whether such a waiver is obtained. Finally, with respect to the timing of any local school board resolution, you may wish to consider the following. As noted above, the Governor may sign, veto or propose amendments to this provision of the budget. The question has arisen as to whether any resolution, adopted before final action on the budget, would be effective, and how action by the Governor may affect any resolution adopted before that time. I have asked the Office of the Attorney General to examine the issue and answer accordingly. Please be assured that I will convey any additional information or action to you as it becomes available. I hope the material provided in this memorandum proves useful. You may wish to share this with your board members should they desire to discuss or take action in this regard. WCBJr:clc Attachment: This memo and its attachment will be sent to the superintendent's office. cc: William H. Hurd, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General Office of the Attorney General