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Senate Democrats Link Education to Economy

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Washington--A key Senate Democratic policy group, in what Congressional observers described as a preliminary outline for their party's 1984 economic platform, has recommended increasing federal spending for compensatory and vocational education, the training of mathematics and science teachers, and programs for gifted students.

The report of the Senate Democratic Caucus' task force, entitled "Jobs for the Future: A Democratic Alternative," deals with a wide array of economic issues, including trade policy, research and development, capital investment, and changes in the structure of the marketplace.

The 13-member task force, chaired by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, accused the Reagan Administration of abandoning practices that made the U.S. economy dominant in the post-World War II era.

The report quotes the French journalist J.J. Servan-Schreiber's assertion that U.S. economic health has stemmed from "wagering on people" through education. "Reaganism departs from our traditions with short-sighted budget cuts in ed-ucation and training ... which could place Americans at a severe, lasting disadvantage in the world economy," the report states.

Extending Programs Proposed

The Democrats proposed extending programs funded under Chapter 1 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981 to secondary-school students. They also hinted that they would dramatically increase funding for elementary-school programs.

"Presently, only 47 percent, or 5.2 million out of 11 million eligible [Chapter] 1 children, are being served, despite the fact that the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows dramatic gains by children served under this program," their report states.

Under the Education Department budget signed recently by President Reagan, Chapter 1 programs will receive $3.48 billion in fiscal 1984.

The report also called for the Congress to better "target" vocational education programs to disadvantaged youths, including high-school dropouts, and to boost funding for adult job training and retraining. The Congress is now considering the reauthorization of the Vocational Education Act, which expires next Sept. 30.

To help meet the requirements of an increasingly technological economy, the task force proposed increasing the federal role in the training of teachers for mathematics, science, and computer literacy.

Following the lead of many state governments, the senators proposed that the federal government allow prospective mathematics and science teachers to forgo payment of 10 percent of the amount they owe on a guaranteed student loan for every year they teach.

The senators also said the government should "ensure that computer learning is provided equally to boys and girls at all socioeconomic levels," but made no specific recommendations.

To reverse what it called the neglect of gifted students, the task force recommended the development of a new federal effort to improve programs for the gifted and talented. It also proposed establishing a college scholarship program for "students of exceptional academic aptitude and achievement."--ce

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