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E.D. Study Cites Positive Effects of Federal Programs

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Washington--Contradicting President Reagan's contention that federal funds have hurt rather than helped America's schools, a study by the Education Department has concluded that federally supported programs have produced positive results without creating undue difficulties for state and local school authorities.

Education Department officials say, however, that the study, which was submitted to the Congress last week, is not likely to influence the Administration's basic policy on federal involvement in education.

Effects of Federal Programs

The study, "Federal Education Policies and Programs: Intergovernmental Issues in Their Design, Operation, and Effects," is summarized in the third and final report of the department's School Finance Project. It is based in part on the findings of earlier studies commissioned by the department to analyze federal programs as they were operated in 15 states in 1981-82.

One of those studies, completed last year by the Educational Testing Service, found that federal involvement had actually helped strength-en state education agencies and had not created severe administrative burdens on the states, as had been commonly believed. (See Education Week, July 27, 1983.)

In recent years, according to the department's final report, Administration officials and others have charged that the federal programs' extensive regulations and requirements have "impeded effective and efficient delivery of educational services, fragmented the instruction programs for some students, severely restricted state and local discretion in providing education services, and produced administrative costs" for which the schools were not completely reimbursed.

Citing the findings of the ets study, the report asserts that, on the other hand, state and local school officials have been "active participants in shaping federally funded services" that are now provided in the schools.

"It is a complex process that takes place over a number of years, beginning with the development of federal legislation and continuing as federal regulations and program directives," and ultimately becoming part of school district and school practices, the department's researchers explain in the report.

The report, moreover, contends that "implementation problems associated with federal activities have been reduced through the combined efforts of local officials (who became familiar with the intiatives) and federal policymakers (who adjusted statutory provisions and program regulations to help meet local concerns)."

Despite the researchers' findings, Gary L. Bauer, deputy under secretary of education for planning, budget, and evaluation, said Administration officials "have very clear views on the need" for less federal intervention in the educational affairs of state and local school officials.

"We have been pleased with the reaction to the block grants," Mr. Bauer said. "I would not suspect anything has changed that would suggest abandoning our basic philosophy."

Congressional Mandate

The final report was mandated by the Congress under the Education Amendments of 1978 to assess the impact of federal education polices on state and local resources in preparation for the 1982 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, the enactment of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981 negated the original purpose of the study, according to Mark A. Kutner, the principal author of the department's final report.

The studies on which the final report is based examined federal laws covering compensatory education for disadvantaged students, vocational education, bilingual education, special education, and civil rights during a specific time and year, according to Mr. Kutner.

The researchers' findings on the views of state and local officials concerning federal intrusion might have been influenced by the Reagan Administration's proposed program changes, he suggested. For example, the ets study's positive findings on federal involvement might have been prompted, he said, by state and local anticipation of program changes or termination.

"What the study can do is provide policymakers with some idea of how [federal programs] are operating and their effects," said Mr. Kutner, who has since left the department and is now a research analyst for Pelavin Associates Inc., an educational research firm. "They can use [the study], if they so choose, to redesign federal-aid programs in education."

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