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E.D. Says Limits On Chapter 2 Funds Will Be Flexible

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Washington--School officials who elect to use funds from their Chapter 2 education block grants to finance reforms such as merit-pay or master-teacher plans need not worry about future audit exceptions, Education Department officials said last week during a briefing on the agency's proposed fiscal 1985 budget.

"Local officials are basically free to use their block-grant money for anything that results in educational improvement, with the exception of construction," said Undersecretary of Education Gary L. Jones following the meeting at which the department's $15.48-billion budget request was described in detail for the press. School districts must also abide by federal rules requiring them to use federal grants to "supplement, and not supplant" state and local funds, other deparment officials added.

When asked whether Chapter 2 funds could be used to pay teachers' salaries, Mr. Jones said, "On an experimental basis, yes."

In its proposed budget, the Administration requests that the Chapter 2 appropriation be increased by approximately 50 percent--from $479 million to $729 million. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1984.) The $250-million increase is intended to help school districts "harmonize" the recommendations of the National Commission on Excellence in Education with grassroots reform efforts, said Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell during the briefing.

In its April 1983 report, the excellence commission called for, among other things, master-teacher plans, salary increases for all teachers, upgraded high-school curricula, and "more rigorous and measurable" standards. (See Education Week, April 27, 1983.)

Some, but not all of the panel's recommendations are mentioned as allowable expenses in the 1981 legislation that folded more than 40 categorical programs into the education block-grants program.

Department officials said they anticipated questions about the legality of using Chapter 2 funds to implement the recommendations of the excellence commission.

"I have asked department attorneys to identify for me what you can use Chapter 2 money for, and I am satisfied that we're on the right track," said Secretary Bell at the briefing. "We aren't proposing to open the law up. It's already very broad."

In other sections of the budget, the Administration suggests that states can use their Chapter 2 funds to "support" women's educational-equity and civil-rights training programs. The President's proposal earmarks no funds for these programs, which received $5.76 million and $24 million in fiscal 1984, respectively.

It also says that local education officials can use their Chapter 2 allotments to finance school-discipline initiatives. In its special analysis of civil-rights activities in the budget, the Administration contends that the deterioration of school discipline in urban schools during the 1970's represented a denial of equal opportunity "as patent, and [in some] respects perhaps as cruel, as that which resulted from de jure segregation."

"The hard-won right of minority children to an equal educational opportunity is being jeopardized by unsafe and disorderly schools--and permitting the current deterioration would be 'anti-minority' in the most fundamental sense," the Administration said.

Last week also marked the official release of the proposed fiscal 1985 budgets for other departments and agencies that are of interest to educators. Those agencies include:

National Science Foundation. The foundation's proposed budget for precollegiate science education would provide $54.7 million for fiscal 1985, the same as the fiscal 1984 level. (Funds for fiscal 1984 will be augmented by an additional $13.9 million carried over from fiscal 1983.)

(The Education Department's budget proposal earmarks $50 million--the same amount it requested last year--for efforts to improve the quality of mathematics and science instruction. The Congress, however, is considering proposals that range in cost from $400 million to $425 million, to be distributed between the two agencies.)

The nsf funds would be used for programs intended to improve teaching, curricular materials, and understanding of the process of learning about science. Teachers' programs would be designed to improve their knowledge of the fields and provide financial incentives for exemplary teachers.

Funds would also be used to develop new instructional materials, but Edward Knapp, the foundation's director, said at a briefing that the nsf has no intention of developing a national curriculum for science. Rather, he said, the foundation would consider proposals for developing materials that commercial publishers could incorporate into their textbooks.

Other programs will include special studies to gain a better understanding of precollege science education in the United States, research in teaching and learning, informal science education, and activities to disseminate information about highly successful programs and outstanding research, according to the agency.

Funding levels for the various initiatives have not yet been set, according to the nsf

The proposed program "reflects input from a variety of sources," according to budget documents. Those sources include the report of the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, as well as the report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

At a briefing on the proposed budget, Mr. Knapp defended the no-growth budget, saying that the level of funding represents "enough money to get started" in responding to the problems in science education that have been publicized over the past several years.

Foundation officials are awaiting a new crop of proposals for fiscal 1984 programs and are also evaluating the programs now underway. After evaluating those, they will decide whether to seek increases next year.

Health and Human Services Department. In its fiscal 1985 budget, the department requests a $1.08-billion appropriation for the Head Start program, an increase of $4 million from its current level of funding.

The program helps community groups provide comprehensive support and early-childhood development for low-income, pre-school children and their families.

Emphasis would be placed on special services to handicapped children and on improving the abilities of Head Start parents to encourage the educational and emotional development of their children, according to budget documents.

Under the proposal, about 24,030 classrooms will provide child-care, nutrition, education, health, and other services for some 429,100 children--the same number as in fiscal 1984.

The proposal, however, requests that funds for training, research, demonstration, and evaluation efforts be cut by $3.3 million, to $24.7 million. The funding reduction, which represents a cut of about 12 percent of the total budget this year, would be used to provide a cost-of-living increase as mandated by statute for American Indian and migrant projects, according to the budget documents.

National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities. The Administration's budget requests $125.48 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, a reduction of more than 10 percent, or $14.5 million, from current funding levels and nearly $5 million less than was appropriated by the Congress in fiscal 1983.

Under the proposed budget, however, the endowment would expand summer seminars for secondary-school teachers. The first 15 summer seminars for high-school teachers were held in 1983 and 50 seminars for teachers are scheduled for this year at a cost of $3.35 million. The budget would allocate $3.5 million to increase the number of seminars to 63 in fiscal 1985.

Total funding for programs in the education division of neh would be cut from $19 million to $16.1 million, with funds for humanities instruction in elementary and secondary schools reduced by more than $1 million, from $7.6 million to $6.44 million.

Fiscal 1985 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts would be reduced by approximately 11 percent, from $162.12 million in the current fiscal year to $143.88 million.

In addition, funding for the Institute of Museum Services would be reduced by 42 percent, from $20.15 million to $11.61 million.

Agriculture Department. In fiscal 1985, funding for the National School Lunch Program would increase by about $30 million, from an estimated $474 million in fiscal 1984 to about $505 million.

Child-nutrition programs would receive $4.03 billion in fiscal 1985, an overall increase of more than $119 million from an estimated level of $3.91 billion in the current fiscal year.

The department's proposal would increase administrative grants to the states to cover the cost of conducting income verification to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price meals under the school-lunch program. As proposed last year, the Administration seeks an indexed reimbursement rate for the school-lunch program and the elimination of the nutrition education and training program.

The proposal also calls for the creation of a nonschool food-assistance grant program to allow states the option of designing and operating their own programs in settings outside of the schools. It would replace the Summer Food Service Program and the Child Care Food Program and would be funded in fiscal 1985 at a level of about $330 million.

Labor Department. Overall funding for employment and training programs would decline from approximately $8.3 billion in fiscal 1984 to about $4.8 billion in fiscal 1985.

The department has proposed spending $1.9 billion in block grants to the states in 1985 for employment and training programs under the Job Training Partnership Act. The allocation would be used to train about 1 million people during both 1984 and 1985, according to budget documents.

The department plans to introduce legislation creating a sub-minimum wage for youths that would affect the amount of money available for the summer youth-employment program. The proposed budget requests $725 million for this program for fiscal 1985, down from $1.5 billion in fiscal 1984.

Those funding levels would decrease in the 1984 budget by $174 million and an additional $87 million in the fiscal 1985 budget proposal under the sub-minimum wage legislation the Administration will resubmit later this year.

Despite the decreases, the Administration expects to serve about 718,000 youths between the ages of 14 and 21 this year and in the following two years. Funding for the Job Corps, the residential training program for youths, would be about $589 million in fiscal 1985, approximately $20 million less than in fiscal 1984.

Susan Foster, Sheppard Ranbom, and Susan Walton contributed to this report.

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