Reagan's Address to Nation To Bring
Washington--New budget cuts--which would bring reductions in federal education spending since 1981 to 35 percent--the elimination of school-lunch subsidies for middle-income children, and a plan to turn the Education Department (ed) into a foundation are among the proposals President Ronald Reagan is reportedly considering for inclusion in the fiscal 1983 federal budget.
Mr. Reagan, who is currently preparing his budget proposal to be delivered in the annual State-of-the-Union message to Congress on Jan. 26, is said to be likely to propose a total of more than $30 billion in new cuts, including a $3.3-billion reduction in spending for education programs. If enacted, those cuts would result in a $9.6 billion budget for the department--more than one-third less than was available in 1981.
Many of the other reductions in the federal education budget for fiscal 1983 would be achieved in the so-called entitlement programs, including the school-lunch program. The $2.5-million program would be cut by $300 million, or 12 percent, under a plan that would eliminate the subsidy for children who pay for their lunches. The plan would continue subsidizing schools' expenses for providing a free lunch to poor students.
Other savings would be achieved if the Congress accepts a plan to abolish ed, spin off some programs to other agencies, and eliminate other programs.
Sources said this process would leave a sub-Cabinet-level foundation with a budget of approximately $7.1 billion.
If the President outlines the education-foundation proposal in his speech, the sources said, he is likely to describe a small agency, without a policy-making board, that would have strictly limited regulatory powers and no civil-rights enforcement powers.
Although meetings last month with 12 Congressional leaders failed to result in expressions of support from key legislators for the foundation proposal, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell and his staff have continued their efforts to promote the foundation.
Last week, Mr. Bell met with members of the Forum of Education Organization Leaders, a group that includes the chief executives of all major public-education and higher-education associations. The members represent school boards, school administrators, principals, teachers, state officials, and teacher-education schools. After what several participants described as an "unsatisfactory" meeting, most of the education leaders agreed to mail identical letters to their local members, urging them to fight the cuts in the federal role in education.
Even Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a long-time opponent of the Cabinet-level department, said, "If the only choice is between a foundation or a department, I will oppose the foundation and support the department."
'Evidence is There'
Mr. Shanker said he had made that decision because "all the evidence is there that this Administration wants to get rid of the federal role in education."
The Secretary also met with state education officials last Tuesday. (See story on this page.)
In addition, he was scheduled to meet with representatives of state boards of education on Friday.
According to information available at mid-week, that group was scheduled to present the Secretary with a written request to put aside his work on the education foundation and to "help the states to deal with the budget cuts they're already facing," according to a staff member of the boards group who asked not to be identified.
Opposition to other aspects of the Administration's proposals already is forming in the Congress. Three Democratic members of the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education--Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, Augustus F. Hawkins of California, and Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky, the subcommittee chairman--have joined the "Coalition to Save Title I."
The group was organized by the National Education Association to protest proposed reductions in funding for the Title I program, which serves educationally disadvantaged students in low-income neighborhoods.
The proposals for cuts in the school-lunch program also have prompted protest from legislators. Eight Republican Senators, including conservatives Robert Dole of Kansas and Jesse A. Helms of North Carolina, signed a letter to the President that warned the cuts "could have a devastating effect on the viability" of the program and "would fail dramatically in Congress."
A similar letter, signed by seven Republican members of the House Committee on Education and Labor, was sent to David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, which proposed the cuts.
Mr. Stockman had unsuccessfully proposed eliminating the school-lunch subsidy in the fiscal 1982 budget.