Budget Office Bill Offers Specifics On Foundation
Washington--The existing offices of the Education Department (ed)--including the National Institute of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics--would be eliminated completely by next October if the Reagan Administration is able to secure Congressional approval of a bill to create a sub-Cabinet-level foundation.
A draft of a legislative proposal to wipe out the current structure, allowing Administration officials wide latitude in designing a "Foundation for Education Assistance," has been prepared by the Office of Management and Budget (omb) for introduction in the Congress this spring.
The document, a copy of which was made available to Education Week, reportedly has been circulated by the omb to officials of several Cabinet-level agencies for their comments.
Under the plan, the foundation would continue to administer federal education programs through fiscal 1983, but its structure would be kept flexible so that it could respond to the President's "new federalism" initiatives. (See story this page.)
Ability to Adjust to Changes
That feature was advocated by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in his memorandum to the President last August. One of the most attractive features of a flexible structure, Mr. Bell stated, "would be the ability of a foundation to adjust to changes as new Administration policies are implemented."
The foundation's adaptable design would permit its director to "establish, consolidate, alter, or discontinue such organizational entities within the foundation as may be necessary or appropriate."
The bill requires only that the director serve as "the principal advisor to the President on educational responsibilities of the Government," and that he appoint a deputy director, an inspector general, a general counsel, and five assistant directors.
No provision of the bill requires an office for civil rights. Instead, the bill would permit the foundation only to "provide advice, counsel, and technical assistance, upon request, ... to promote ... compliance with the requirements of" federal civil-rights statutes.
The enforcement responsibility for the civil-rights laws--which is currently shared by the department's civil-rights office and the Justice Department's civil-rights division--would rest solely with the Justice Department.
Specifically, the latter agency would be authorized to "institute and conduct administrative proceedings to limit, defer, or terminate Federal financial assistance to any recipient on the grounds of noncompliance with" civil-rights laws. It also would be permitted to "institute or participate in court litigation relating to enforcement of the [civil-rights] statutes."
The bill would prohibit the Justice Department from taking enforcement action until foundation officials have "advised the appropriate person or persons of the failure to comply with the requirement" and until they have "determined that compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means."
The proposal would eliminate several current education programs, and it would transfer numerous programs to other federal agencies, based on a plan developed by a task force of Administration officials last fall. (See Education Week, Nov. 16.)
In addition, the General Education Provisions Act (gepa)--a composite law that sets out the general statutory requirements of most federal programs--would be repealed by the Administration's bill. The proposal does, however, duplicate at least two sections of the gepa: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which protects the rights of parents and students regarding access to students' school records; and the Hatch Amendment, which protects students from being required to participate in psycho-logical examinations at school.
Most of the larger programs now administered by the Education Department would be continued in the foundation until they were amended or repealed, according to the President's plan to return responsibility for most federal education programs to the states.
Included in the foundation are those programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act, the Vocational Education Act, the Education Amendments of 1978, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act, and the Adult Education Act.
In addition to providing financial support for the remaining programs, the bill authorizes the foundation to "conduct and support" several programs. They are:
"(1) educational research, including basic and applied research, planning, surveys, evaluations, and experiments ... ;
"(2) developmental, exemplary, or demonstration projects in education;
"(3) assessments of the performance of children and young adults in reading, mathematics, communication, and citizenship skills;
"(4) the collection, collation, analysis, and reporting of statistics and other data ... ;
"(5) planning for, and evaluation of, programs administered by the Foundation; and
"(6) dissemination to educational agencies and institutions and the public of information and findings collected or developed...."