Senate Votes to Cut Aid to Schools With Pro-Gay Stance
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate voted Monday to cut off federal funds to any school district that teaches acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle.
The 63-36 vote on a proposal by Sens. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., came during debate on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides $12.5 billion in federal funds to the nation’s public schools.
Smith said school districts use the money to buy books and other materials that are ″so graphic and so disgusting that I can’t display them here on the floor of the United States Senate.″
But Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., said the provision would forbid counseling of gay students, who he said are up to three times as likely to commit suicide as other teen-agers.
″We simply can’t do that,″ he said, calling the amendment ″very mean- spirited.″
The measure would cut federal aid to districts that ″carry out a program or activity that has either the purpose or effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.″
It includes distribution of instructional materials, counseling and referral of students to gay organizations.
The House included a similar amendment when it passed the bill. Differences between the two versions will have to be worked out by a conference committee before the bill can be signed into law by President Clinton.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, said the proposal would inject the federal government into local decision-making, and would ″remove the local discretion that is the hallmark of our educational system.″
Some school districts teach acceptance of homosexuality during social studies or sex education programs.
A controversial program in New York City led to the ouster of Joseph Fernandez as chancellor of the nation’s largest school system last year.
Some school programs use books such as ″Heather Has Two Mommies″ and ″Daddy’s Roommate,″ that depict lesbian and gay couples in family settings with children.
Other books, used in HIV-AIDS education programs, are more graphic, describing sexual acts and advocating the use of latex condoms during intercourse.
Helms denounced what he called the ″disgusting, obscene material that’s laid out before school children in this country every day.″
The Senate also approved 66-33 a proposal by Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., that would allow single-gender public schools on an experimental basis.
Danforth’s proposal would permit the Department of Education to approve as many as 10 such programs nationwide and provide $1 million for grants and other costs.
The proposal ″simply opens up a possibility,″ said Danforth, whose four daughters and one son all attended single-gender schools. He said studies show that girls and black boys who attend single-gender schools fare better on standardized tests than their counterparts in coeducational settings.
Danforth suggested a demonstration project to minimize opposition to what he termed ″obviously a controversial idea.″
But Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., objected that it was dangerous to waive civil rights protections that require integration of schools by gender and race.
She said also there was ″no conclusive evidence that single-sex education works better than coeducational education.″
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act also sets the distribution formula for federal dollars targeted for disadvantaged students.
More than 90 percent of the nation’s school districts receive funds from the so-called Chapter I program. But the money is spread so thin that many poor children are either not served or underserved.