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Education Programs Slashed Again

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Washington--President Reagan's request last month that Congress approve across-the-board "12-percent cuts" in 1982 federal spending actually would result in much larger reductions in education spending, Administration officials disclosed last week.

The President's proposal, which he outlined in general terms in a televised speech on Sept. 24, would provide $12.58 billion for the Education Department next year, 20 percent less than the $15.7 billion Congress approved in July, sources said. (See excerpts from Mr. Reagan's speech on this page.)

The reductions in some individual education programs would be even larger. Under the latest Administration proposal, 47 percent would be cut from the $1.5-billion handicapped-education program; 30 percent from the $3.48-billion Title I program; 26 percent from the $475-illion impact-aid program; and 24 percent from the $838-million vocational and adult education program, according to a department budget analysis, a copy of which was made available to Education Week.

What seems like a discrepancy between the President's request and the actual reductions in education spending, one Administration official said, actually is the result of confusion over which budget figures the Administration would base its new cuts upon.

President Reagan's 12-percent cut would be taken from the House of Representatives' proposed budget appropriation figure, $13.9 billion, the official said. The $15.7-billion figure represents the amount authorized by Congress last July in the budget "reconciliation" bill.

Another figure to consider, the official added, is this year's federal education budget: $14.9 billion. If the President's latest request were enacted, the Education Departent's 1982 budget would be nearly 16 percent lower than in 1981.

The President's strategy for achieving his desired reductions was not revealed. Congress is in the process of determining the specific appropriation figures for the Education Department and most other federal agencies.

If Congressional leaders refuse to go along with Mr. Reagan's cuts, he is said to be considering various measures, including veto of appropriation bills and impoundment of funds, to achieve the reductions.

Drew Immediate Response

The President's address drew several immediate responses:

Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell circulated a memorandum among all department employees the day following the President's speech, informing them that "a reduction in force is highly probable."

Department sources said this measure was necessary because the President proposed a $37-million cut in department salaries and expenses, below the $308-million level authorized by Congress.

One official said that of the department's 6,450 positions, as many as 1,300 may be eliminated next year.

Two education subcommittee chairmen in Congress have promised to fight the President's proposal. Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, said he would not allow the President to "turn the federal government's back on our young people."

'Never More Important'

The chairman of the House Postsecondary Education Subcommittee, Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, said the cuts would "downgrade our emphasis on education at a time when education has never been more important to our nation's future."

Representatives of The Department of Education Coalition--which is made up of 150 education interest groups--held a press conference in Washington to denounce the President's proposal to cut education spending and eliminate the Cabinet-level department.

"Education takes 2 percent of the federal budget, a small amount for a program whose impact stretches across generations, cultures, and philosophies," said Samuel G. Sava, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Gene Bottoms, executive director of the American Vocational Association, said, "A $1.4-trillion investment in sophisticated machinery and weapons [by the Defense Department] will not solve the defense needs of our nation if we do not have trained people to build, operate, and maintain this equipment."

The other commitment voiced by President Reagan--to abolish the Education Department "less than two years after it was created"--was reportedly being discussed by high-ranking Administration officials.

Administration sources, who asked not to be identified, said the President still had not made a definite decision on the specific structure for a sub-Cabinet-level education agency.

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