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Weicker Assails Education Budget

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Washington--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, who has been defending the Reagan Administration's education budget on Capitol Hill for the past several weeks, was given a hostile reception by the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on education.

'A Lack of Understanding'

In a budget hearing last week, Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut, chided the Secretary for what the Senator called ''a lack of understanding of the economic effect of [budget cuts] on education."

"For what's been achieved in budgetary savings since the fiscal year 1982, there's going to be a terrible cost to be paid in terms of services [to students]," Senator Weicker said.

The Secretary responded with an argument he has advanced repeatedly in his Congressional appearances: that the Administration's original fiscal 1984 budget for the Education Department was set at $9 billion, and "the President himself" intervened to increase the proposed budget to $13.2 billion.

The department's current budget, for the fiscal year 1983, is $15 billion--a level one-third higher than the Administration sought for education last year.

Senator Weicker also voiced his opposition to the Administration's proposals to return prayer to public schools, to provide tuition tax credits for private-school parents, and to distribute "education vouchers" to parents of disadvantaged children.

Members of the House Appropriations subcommittee had criticized those measures when the Secretary appeared before them earlier this month.

Senator Weicker contended that the Administration's initiatives would create "a divided society."

If the quality of public schools is inferior to that of private schools, "then my job as a U.S. senator is to see that the public-school system is brought up to standard," he said.

The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, William Proxmire of Wisconsin, told the Secretary he "shared the views of the Administration on tuition tax credits."

$2.6-Billion Budget Increase

In another budget move, the House Education and Labor Committee has recommended a $2.6-billion budget increase for precollegiate-education programs in 1984. The committee's recommendations for the programs, which are currently funded at $6.6 billion, were sent to the House Budget Committee earlier this month.

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