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Child-Advocacy Group Rebuts Reagan's Claims About Budget

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Washington--Changes in federal education programs enacted under the Reagan Administration have adversely affected disadvantaged and handicapped children, and changes proposed "threaten" the future of those children, the Children's Defense Fund charged last week.

In an analysis of the Administration's actions during the past three fiscal years, the child-advocacy organization said that "thousands" of disadvantaged children served by the Education Department's Chapter 1 program "have lost services entirely or had their services reduced." If the President's fiscal 1984 budget is enacted, 200,000 more students would be eliminated from the program, the organization claimed.

For children in federally funded education programs for the handicapped, "state and local officials have already begun cutting back services ... because of the Administration's past proposals and the general turmoil created by the anticipation of federal changes," it said.

In releasing the 244-page study, the organization's director, Marian Wright Edelman, said the Administration was "misleading the American public about the real impact of the cuts on the poor and on American children."

"States and cities cannot close all the gaps," she said in the study. "Some have invested more in their children because of federal example. Some will invest less because of federal example." City school districts in particular, the study pointed out, are having difficulty making up for federal budget cuts because they have "suffered dramatically under the Reagan budget cuts."

Urban districts lost approximately 25 percent of their federal funds due to the elimination of the Emergency School Aid Act and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, reductions in funding for nutrition programs, and cuts in other programs, the study said.

Overall, the organization's study examined the effects of budget cuts on 20 programs for the poor and for children. The programs included, in addition to those for the handicapped and the disadvantaged, the Head Start preschool program and child-nutrition programs.

Taken together, the 20 programs received $9 billion less this year than they would have under Carter Administration policies, and they would be reduced by an additional $3.5 billion if the Administration's latest budget proposals were accepted by the Congress, the study said.

The document, "A Children's Defense Budget," included an alternative budget proposal--which Ms. Edelman said she will try to have introduced in the Congress--and suggestions for increasing federal revenues by repealing tax reductions and cutting the military budget.

Gary L. Bauer, the Education Department's deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, challenged the study's implications, if not its figures.

"There are a lot of nuances that explain some of the things in the budget. Someone who ignores them either doesn't know or is exploiting a political viewpoint," he said.

Mr. Bauer said he conceded that the Chapter 1 program was slated for a 4-percent budget cut, but "they didn't point out that there was a dispute over Census Bureau figures last year. On a one-time basis, the Congress appropriated an extra $148 million so states could use either the 1980 or 1970 census in counting children eligible for the program. And we didn't even ask for those funds to be taken away this year."

"There's a certain amount of partisanship involved in these charges," Mr. Bauer claimed. "These are not changes forced down anybody's throats. These were accepted by the Congress."

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