WASHINGTON -- Sixth District Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is the only member of the state congressional delegation who doesn't approve of the Clinton administration's $427 million education reform plan.
The plan is awaiting Senate action after passing the House with strong support from seven of Maryland's eight representatives.
Administration officials said that they are optimistic about passage of the Goals 2000 plan, which establishes voluntary national teaching standards.
"We've got great bipartisan support, with 57 Republicans voting for it in the House, and we expect the same in the Senate," said Camille Johnston, a Department of Education spokeswoman.
But Mr. Bartlett, a freshman Republican from Frederick, was not among the GOP representatives supporting the bill.
"It puts too much concentration of money and power in the hands of the federal government," Mr. Bartlett said. "Parents and school boards are in a better position than inside-the-beltway bureaucrats" to initiate programs, he said.
Mr. Bartlett said it is ironic that so many supporters of the plan send their children to private schools.
Critics like Mr. Bartlett contend the plan will establish unnecessary federal bureaucracies.
But the Maryland Department of Education strongly supports Goals 2000, said spokesman Ron Peiffer.
It "would set standards compatible with what we're already doing in Maryland," he said. He stressed that national and state goals must remain in sync for the plan to work.
The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee voted 14-3 in favor of the Senate version. Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat who sits on the committee, voted for the bill.
Goals 2000 will provide financial grants for schools willing to work toward broad national educational standards. They include improving preschool programs, reducing the high school dropout rate, strengthening math and science skills, raising adult literacy and eliminating drugs and violence in schools.
"What's enlightened about this legislation is that it matches a call for resources with a call for goals," said Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association. "Maryland ought to embrace it."
The plan calls for the establishment of a national skills board to develop standards. Participation in the program is voluntary.
"We've learned that forcing schools to comply with some arbitrary standard set in Washington simply won't work," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican who voted for the House bill.
"This is strictly a voluntary program," he added. "I've always favored rewarding those teachers and those school systems that are willing to try something new to get students to achieve."
The House approved the plan, 307-118, on Oct. 13.