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California School Chief Calls U.S. Funding Outlook Dismal

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Washington--If the Reagan Administration dismantles the Education Department, federal education programs should be transferred to the Defense Department, said Wilson Riles, California's state superintendent of public instruction, at a press conference here last week.

The Defense Department would be the "best place for those programs because we'd never have to worry about budget cuts," he suggested.

'Dismal' Budgets

The state superintendent spoke after attending a meeting with Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell regarding the fiscal 1982 and 1983 federal budgets, which Mr. Riles characterized as "dismal." (See story on this page.)

In California, where federal dollars make up approximately 10 percent of the total amount spent for public education, Mr. Riles said, "chances are slim to none that we can pick up the costs. We already have a [state] budget deficit."

He estimated that if the large-scale reductions in spending for federal programs were enacted, as many as 14,000 teachers throughout the state may lose their jobs, and up to 300,000 of the two million students who participate in federally-funded education programs may be dropped from the programs.

"Who are you hurting when you cut these programs? It's the lower-middle-class and the poor kids. We're going to have to head this off at the Congressional level, to make a strong fight," he said.

Mr. Riles refused, however, to criticize directly either President Reagan or Secretary Bell for proposing the budget cuts.

"I honestly don't believe the President understands the impact of the budget cuts, and I don't believe he wants to dismantle the Education Department," he said. President Reagan "tends to be very reasonable if you can get to him," but the President is permitting the Office of Management and Budget to make "arbitrary" cuts in programs, Mr. Riles claimed.

He also called on the Administration to define the federal role in education and said he was planning to request a meeting with the President to discuss the future of federal education efforts.

Also present at the meeting with Secretary Bell were eight other state education officers, who, together with Mr. Riles, make up the executive board of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Although Mr. Riles is the group's current president, he said his remarks reflected his own opinions, rather than the council's positions.--E.W.

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