I find this micro-managing a far more disturbing abuse of my tax dollars:
Colleges Would Be Required to Teach the Constitution, Under Provision Tucked Into Spending Bill
By KARIN FISCHER
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the Senate's unofficial constitutional scholar, has inserted language into the final $388-billion spending bill for 2005 requiring that any educational institution that receives federal aid offer its students an instructional program on the U.S. Constitution each September 17, the anniversary of its signing.
The provision took higher-education leaders by surprise. They said they had not been consulted about it.
Because the rider does not specifically exclude colleges, higher-education officials assume it applies to their institutions, as well as elementary and secondary schools, said Becky Timmons, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, an umbrella group that lobbies for colleges.
A spokesman for Senator Byrd, Tom Gavin, said the measure would apply to all public and private institutions, including colleges, that receive federal money.
Ms. Timmons said college leaders are concerned that the provision could set a precedent in which Congress feels free to issue curricular requirements. The U.S. Department of Education is expressly prohibited from establishing a national curriculum.
The language does not specify how the instruction should be carried out. Mr. Gavin said he expects the Education Department to issue a rule or letter of guidance to colleges and schools in the coming weeks.
The final spending bill has been tied up by an unrelated controversy over a provision giving members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees the authority to review individual federal tax returns (The Chronicle, December 3). The legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush.
In a written statement, Senator Byrd said Americans need to better understand the Constitution and its importance. "We can build upon the respect and reverence we still hold for our Constitution," the senator said. "But we had better start now, before, through ignorance and apathy, even that much slips away from us."
Senator Byrd's reverence for the Constitution is well known on Capitol Hill. He habitually carries a copy of the document in an inside breast pocket of his suit, and he has been known to flourish it during heated arguments on the Senate floor. He has also written multivolume histories of the U.S. Senate and the Roman Senate.
The eight-term senator has previously used his position as the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to make far-reaching policy statements in the end-of-the-year spending bills. In 2000, for example, he added a last-minute provision giving money from import duties paid by foreign companies to their American competitors. That rider sparked a serious trade dispute with the European Union and a half-dozen other countries.