- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 28, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
In a breakthrough for President Bush's education bill, key lawmakers disclosed tentative compromises yesterday on two key sticking points, one approving annual math and reading tests for millions of students and the other loosening strings on billions of dollars in federal funds.
As described in a summary circulating among Republicans in Congress, the draft agreement also would reduce the number of federal education programs from the current 55 to 45.
Additionally, economically disadvantaged students in failing schools would be allowed to use federal funds for private tutoring, summer school and other similar programs.
The draft compromise was the result of negotiations among Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, and Reps. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and George Miller, California Democrat the lawmakers involved in writing the final details of the education bill.
The measure was one of Mr. Bush's top first-year legislative priorities before the September 11 terrorist attacks commanded the nation's attention, and Lindsey Kozberg, an Education Department spokeswoman, hailed the developments.
"We're very pleased with the progress and we look forward to seeing a final bill shortly," she said, adding that key principles of Mr. Bush's education plan are preserved in the proposal.
The four lawmakers, who have been conducting closed-door negotiations for months, met again yesterday and are expected to present their proposal to the full complement of House and Senate negotiators later in the week.
Other issues remain to be resolved, among them a Democratic demand for more money than Republicans and the administration have agreed to provide, particularly for a program for special-education students.
Even so, final agreement on the issues of testing and funding flexibility would clear major obstacles and give fresh momentum to the push to clear the bill through Congress before lawmakers adjourn for the year.
A summary of the proposed agreement was circulated widely among Republicans yesterday.
The Senate bill, for example, required states to administer one federally backed test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, to measure student performance. The House-passed measure permitted states to use an alternative, a provision designed in part to satisfy conservatives concerned about the federal role in education.
Under the proposed compromise, the federal NAEP test for reading and math would be administered to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students in each state every other year.


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