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Administration's Voc.-Ed. Plan Said Moribund

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Washington--The Reagan Administration's proposal to combine vocational- and adult-education programs in the form of block grants to the states is not likely to be included in final legislation reauthorizing the Vocational Education Act, key aides to the House and Senate education committees said last week.

Polly Gault, staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and the Humanities, said last week that there is strong sentiment in the Senate that vocational education and adult education are "two distinct programs" and should remain that way.

"One thing it will not be is a block grant," Ms. Gault asserted during a panel discussion at the annual conference of the National Alliance of Business.

Cautioning that it is too early to make any firm prediction about the shape of the vocational-education reauthorization bill, John F. Jennings, associate general counsel for the House Education and Labor Committee, nonetheless agreed that the block-grants proposal has little chance of approval.

"I think it's clear that there's not much support in the House for the Administration's proposal; it's not going to be the vehicle" for reauthorizing the law, Mr. Jennings said.

"It is safe to say we have not had one witness, except for Administration officials, voice any support for the Administration's proposal during the two years of hearings," Mr. Jennings said. But, he added, ''We don't know what we're going to do."

Eight Subprograms

The Vocational Education Act of 1963, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 1984, includes eight subprograms for which amounts are set separately by the Congress. In fiscal 1983, the Congress authorized a total of $728 million for the programs.

Last year, the Administration proposed consolidating all of those programs, along with the $95-million adult-education program, into a Continued on Page X

Administration's Vocational-Education Plan Said Moribund single block grant to the states. (A bill containing that provision has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.)

In his budget proposal for fiscal 1984, President Reagan restated his block-grant proposal and requested a 40-percent funding reduction for the program.

The Congress has not acted on the Administration's proposal. But during the last six months, two other reauthorization proposals have been submitted to the Congress for consideration.

Model Bill

One of those is a model bill offered jointly by the American Vocational Association (ava), the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Education, and the Ameri-can Association of Junior Colleges. That measure, according to Mr. Jennings, will be the subject of hearings in the House later this month.

The organizations' draft bill calls for a $1.6-billion authorization in fiscal 1984 "to assist the states to expand, improve, and intensify existing vocational-technical education programs." The draft, however, also calls for a restructuring of the current system of allocating the federal money. For example, postsecondary and adult education would receive a larger share of the federal funds allocated to the states.

Unlike the Administration's proposal, the proposal backed by the vocational-education groups does not call for a block-grants program, but would continue categorical funding for disadvantaged young people, minorities, women, the handicapped, and adults in need of training and retraining.

Dean Griffin, director of governmental relations for the ava, said the organization's draft bill simplifies the current law so that "the states can implement [the program] more effectively."

"You have to have a definite role for the federal money; it can't be general aid to education," Mr. Griffin said.

Another bill (HR 14), sponsored by Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, would simply extend the current law for one year. According to Mr. Jennings, the ex-tension bill could become the basis for a final measure reauthorizing the vocational-education program, but he said "the House is not moving rapidly" on reauthorization.

In the Senate, according to Ms. Gault, members of the education subcommittee "will be making up for lost time in the next six months" in an attempt "to report something early." Hearings on the reauthorization are scheduled for later this month.

Ms. Gault said the subcommittee would like to present "a consensus bill" representing the best elements of the Administration's proposal and the ava's draft bill.

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