New James Marshall Takes Over
by Adrienne Stith
In the time since beginning my tenure as the James Marshall Public Policy Scholar in November of 1999, I have been learning a great deal about legislative process and issues that would be in the forefront during this session of Congress. The second session of the 106th Congress convened on January 24, 2000 and activity has been high. While it is a short legislative year because of elections in November, there are key pieces of legislation that will likely be passed.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
During the first session of the 106th Congress, the process of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was begun. This is the major legislation concerning the education of children and youth in grades K - 12. Programs funded under ESEA include programs for disadvantaged students, professional development, early childhood initiatives, safe and drug-free schools, educational flexibility, and bilingual education. This is one of the issues that will be a top priority for the public and members who are seeking reelection.
I have focused primarily on the reauthorization of Title IV of ESEA, Safe and Drug Free Schools, which is the primary initiative by the government to reduce drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and violence through programs in schools. In coordination with other mental health organizations interested in school services, we have been working to strengthen and integrate mental health resources into the language of this title. This section of ESEA provides an excellent vehicle for supplying much needed mental health resources to school communities.
A second and related effort has concentrated on introduction and passage of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Improvement Act (S. 1443), which provides grants for schools to establish or expand mental health counseling programs. S. 1443 sought to expand the Elementary Counseling Demonstration Act, which was authorized in ESEA of 1994, by expanding mental health services to secondary schools. However, neither act was included in the draft offered by Senator Jeffords, Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I have worked closely with the mental health coalition to ensure that school counseling services are expanded through the hiring of qualified school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors. It was recently announced that Jeffords will include the 1994 Act, which focuses on elementary schools and prevention efforts.
Racial profiling, the practice of targeting certain racial and ethnic groups for police examination, has recently received considerable attention in Congress. Three bills have been introduced this session. Two of the bills, which are companion bills (H.R. 1443 and S. 821), call for the Attorney General to conduct a nationwide study of stops for traffic violations. These bills are sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI) (with 21 co-sponsors) in the House and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) (with three co-sponsors) in the Senate. Data collected for the studies would include, for example, the alleged infraction, whether a search was instituted , and the race, gender, ethnicity, and age of the driver. The third piece of legislation (H.R. 2656), also sponsored by Rep. Conyers (with five co-sponsors), is an omnibus crime control and safe streets bill that would address the accreditation of law enforcement agencies. This bill would also provide funds for grants to agencies to study management and operations standards (including use of force and racial profiling), training of personnel, oversight of agencies, and deaths in custody. Full committee mark up of H.R. 1443 occurred in February and was recently reported out of the House Judiciary Committee to the floor of the House. However, because of the shrinking number of legislative days, it is not clear when H.R. 1443 will go to the floor or if any action will be taken on the other bills.
I have been working with Division 45 on their resolution of racial profiling and other law enforcement activities and will work with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on their legislation. A congressional briefing on racial profiling will be planned for June and co-sponsored by SPSSI and APA in order to educate members and raise awareness of the issues and psychology’s role in conducting research and working with communities of color and law enforcement.
An issue I have begun to follow is the Census Bureau’s plan for conducting the 2000 Census. There are increased efforts by the Bureau to increase their count of children, as well as ethnic and immigrant groups. Census data is used to allocate or reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Census data is also used to enforce civil rights laws and allocate federal, state, and county funds for education, health care, transportation, job training, and many other services. In the 1990 census, it is estimated that 8.4 million people were not counted, many of whom were children, members of ethnic minority groups, and people living in poverty. For example, undercount rates were .7% for Non-Hispanic Whites, 2.3% for Asians and Pacific Islanders, 4.4% for African Americans, 5% for Hispanics, and 12.2% percent for American Indians living on reservations. In addition, children were missed at twice the rate of adults.
For the 2000 census, the Census Bureau has planned several strategies to improve counts. They will mail forms to every home three times, go door to door to reach homes that have not responded, and send outreach workers to locations such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens. In addition the Bureau has launched a national advertising campaign to increase awareness and educate the public (e.g., free videos at Blockbuster stores, public service announcements on television, radio and outdoors, take-home pages for students in schools with facts and games about the census). Finally, when door to door visits are complete, the Bureau will conduct a post enumeration study to measure how many people were missed or counted more than once during the direct count and provide a correction.
While this session of Congress will be short, it should prove to be an interesting one, as many members are seeking re-election. I will continue to follow mental health services in ESEA, racial profiling, and the 2000 census. I will also look forward to becoming involved in work concerning ethnic disparities in health research. If you have questions regarding these or other topics, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
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