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Handbook Counsels Officials On Block-Grants Strategies

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The Education Consolidation and Improvement Act (ecia)--which creates education block grants and simplifies Title I--should be regarded as "landmark" legislation, says a manual on the new law published by the National School Boards Association.

The law represents not only a shift in power and responsibility to state and local officials, but also "an experiment in future federal-aid packages" and "a vehicle for restoring public confidence," according to the publication, which was published by the association's office of federal relations.

The guidebook suggests several "action steps" that administrators should take in preparation for receiving ecia funds. These include:

Eligibility for participation. Funds under Chapter I of the law will continue to be dispensed according to the old Title I formula, which is based on a school system's percentage of low-income families. Under Chapter II, the block-grants package, all school systems are eligible to receive grant funds. Thus, administrators should determine whether their school systems will receive more or less federal money under the ecia than they did under categorical aid programs.

Federal-program administration. Because fewer people may be needed to handle the ecia paperwork requirements, administrators should decide whether the program should stand alone or be integrated into the regular administrative structure. Among the options: keep a separate operation for federal programs but shift emphasis from proposal-writing to program-planning and evaluation; or shift responsibility for federal-program administration to the school system's management team.

State and federal relations. Local administrators should work with state and federal officials to ensure that the law works appropriately at the local level. In Chapter I, administrators should pay attention to: regulations that reduce local paperwork requirements; the redesign of applications; and the determination of which records must be maintained for audits and evaluations.

In Chapter II, administrators should be aware of: regulations and applications procedures governing the new program; the formula for distributing funds; the required records and reports; and representation on the governor's block-grants advisory council. Because the new program could result in staff changes at the state and federal level, local administrators should find out who's in charge of the new programs.

Drafting program policies and administrative regulations. For Chapter I, school boards should adopt policies on parent and teacher involvement, needs assessments, and program goals and implementation. For Chapter II, policies on the new program's design, implementation, and evaluation are necessary. Local administrative regulations governing both programs also should be written.

Additional funding sources and community involvement. In school districts that will lose federal funds because of the consolidation of3programs under Chapter II, administrators should consider: seeking grants from other sources (public or private); raising funds locally; or making cooperative arrangements with other public and private schools or businesses. In addition, administrators should design a plan for involving both the public and the private-school community in deciding what programs the federal money should support.

Copies of the manual are available from the association for $7.95. To order, write: Mary Lou Seigfried, nsba, 1055 Thomas Jefferson St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007.

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