Federal News Roundup
Two more bills have been introduced in Congress proposing to extend the enrollment deadline that college-bound high-school seniors must meet in order to qualify for Social Security benefits over the next four years.
That brings to eight the number of bills supporting the revision of new laws that would phase out by April 1985 Social Security's 16-year-old program of education benefits to college students.
The new laws--which were passed by Congress last August during the budget-reconciliation process but received little public attention--would make it impossible for current high-school students to collect the benefits unless they manage to enroll in colleges by May 1. Publicity surrounding the program cuts and the May deadline has prompted thousands of students over the past few months to drop out of their schools and to enroll in local colleges that will accept students who do not have high-school diplomas.
Five of the eight bills--including the two most recent additions, sponsored by Representative Joseph M. McDade, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Senator Carl M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan--would extend the current eligibility cutoff date from May 1 to Oct. 1. One of the other three bills would cancel the program phase-out entirely; the others would push back the deadline to either July 1 or November 1, respectively.
Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, a frequent and outspoken critic of the teaching profession, recently took school boards to task, calling them "the problem" during the taping of a television program.
School-board members, he said, "have not been carrying out their responsibilities. Why don't the [news] media hold school boards accountable as they do other elected officials?"
The comment prompted speculation by Robert V. Haderlein, president of the National School Boards Association, that "the [Reagan] Administration might have a plan to have Ted Bell criticize school boards to make it easier for federal legislators to vote for dismantling the Education Department."
Mr. Haderlein said his association and Mr. Bell had been engaged in an "ongoing dialogue" during the past year--including a recent sharp exchange of letters--over the proper division of responsibility for education between local, state, and federal governments.
The commission, which is charged with ending job discrimination by private and government employers, enforces federal civil-rights and anti-discrimination laws. President Ronald Reagan last year nominated William Bell, a Detroit businessman, as commission chairman, but his confirmation was held up by protests from civil-rights groups that claimed Mr. Bell was not qualified for the position.
Mr. Thomas, a politically conservative lawyer, has frequently spoken against the use of affirmative-action quotas in the hiring of minorities and women. He is also an opponent of busing to achieve racial desegregation of schools. As the director of the Education Department's civil-rights office, Mr. Thomas has emphasized informal negotiations with, rather than threats against, school officials who violate civil-rights laws.
A spokesman for the department said last week that the Administration had not selected a replacement for Mr. Thomas.