Secretary Bell's 'Enthusiasm' Not Shared By Critics of Cuts
Washington--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell recently unveiled a fiscal 1983 budget that would cut federal aid to education by one-third, taking large amounts out of programs to benefit handicapped and disadvantaged elementary and secondary students and greatly restricting college students' access to financial assistance.
The cuts notwithstanding, the Secretary said his proposed budget for fiscal 1983 and an accompanying plan to replace the Department of Education with a Foundation for Education Assistance reflect "an enthusiasm for a new and exciting federal role" in education and "underline that the primary responsibility for education belongs to states and localities."
The sharply reduced education budget--listed in one federal budget document under the category "Reducing Low-Priority Spending"--was greeted with harsh words from members of Congress and education leaders.
"The education budget is scheduled for a 30- percent reduction, and at the same time the defense budget is going to be increased 15 percent. That's absolutely indefensible," said Representative Lawrence J. DeNardis, Republican of Connecticut.
Senator Gary Hart, Democrat of Colorado, charged that the cuts in education and other social programs "essentially eliminate the ladder of opportunity."
"Education is the most vital long-range concern for the strength and viability of this country," said Ralph D. Turlington, commissioner of education for the state of Florida. "It's ridiculous to sit here and build the most sophisticated and technological weapons in the world and then expect a nation of untrained and uneducated soldiers to maintain and operate them."
"Any nation that isn't strong in education in this technological world is going down the tubes," Mr. Turlington added. "The federal government has a role to play in that. Instead, they're giving the impression that education is not critical for the future of the country."
Phyllis L. Blaunstein, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, said state board members from around the country have called her complaining about the proposed budget cuts.
"They're alarmed. They believe it's unrealistic to cut federal funds with the expectations that states can reinstate those funds. This Administration does not seem to realize that the federal government is not alone in its pain in the fiscal crisis," she said.
The Administration's proposals included:
Creating two new program consolidations, one for education of the handicapped and another for vocational and adult education. Although Mr. Bell said details of the plans had not been decided, both programs are slated for large budget reductions.
Eliminating the only two remaining categorical programs that help school systems implement voluntary desegregation plans--the $37-million program for civil-rights training and the $8-million allocation for bilingual-desegregation grants. At the same time, the Administration proposes to add $9.6 million to its fund for the support of traditionally black colleges.
Repealing the Women's Educational Equity Act and the Follow Through program for disadvantaged elementary-school students. Those programs--along with civil-rights training--could be paid for with the education block grant, although the budget for the block grant also would be sliced in 1983.
Redefining bilingual education, so that school systems are not required to teach students in their native languages in order to qualify for federal funds. The proposal represents a complete about-face from the Carter Administration's emphasis on teaching in a student's native language.
Transferring 28 programs to seven other federal agencies. The programs to be transferred include Indian education, impact aid, and international education.
Eliminating 23 programs--including aid to public libraries and migrant education programs--and repealing 11 federal commissions.
Cuts in some of the largest and most popular education programs were said by supporters to be especially troubling.
Richard E. Duffy, federal-assistance representative for the U.S. Catholic Conference, characterized as "disastrous" the proposal to reduce funding for Title I from $3.1 billion in 1981 to $1.9 billion in 1983.
"Title I has provided Catholic schools with major assistance, especially in the inner city. Practically every school district that gets Title I money" uses some of it to support programs for parochial-school students, Mr. Duffy said.
Cuts in funding for educating handicapped children met with protest from a bipartisan group of Congressmen even before the budget was released. Two identical letters, one signed by 59 senators, the other by 285 House members, asked President Reagan for "continued support for P.L. 94-142."
And several organizations concerned with vocational education held a press conference here last week to announce the results of "several major studies" that they said showed why "federal support of vocational education is critical to meeting ... employment needs."
The Administration's budget also included a one-sentence reference to a tuition tax-credit proposal that "the Administration will transmit to Congress ...later in the year."
That item, the revenue loss from which was not accounted for in the fiscal 1983 budget, did not please Mr. Duffy of the Catholic conference.
"The Administration is reneging on all sorts of promises that the President made to the private-education community," he charged. "He came before a body of Catholic school superintendents in October 1980 in Columbus, Ohio. He said definitely that he was going to push tuition tax credits. So far all it's been is promises."
Another national Catholic-school group, the executive committee of the Chief Administrators of Catholic Education, has sent a telegram to the President, saying members were "surprised and concerned at the lack of any mention of tuition tax credits" in the State of the Union Address. The group urged the President to include tax credits in his 1983 budget proposal.
Likewise, Robert L. Smith, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, said he was "disappointed there wasn't a provision for tuition tax credits made in the budget. We're fearful that this will make it difficult if not impossible to pass tuition tax credits in this session of Congress."
Mr. Smith said he "would want to see the money for tuition tax credits coming out of the military budget, not out of the education budget.
"We're concerned with the national priorities that seem to be not toward the improvement of the lives of people but an effort to maximize military preparedness," he said.