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House Panel Okays Bilingual Bill Allowing Flexibility in Methods

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Washington--The House Education and Labor Committee approved a measure last week that for the first time would give school systems some flexibility in how they use federal funds on behalf of students with a limited ability to speak English.

Included in an amendment to HR 11, a bill reauthorizing several education programs through fiscal 1989, the bilingual-education provision would require 4 percent of a federal Bilingual Education Act appropriation of $140 million or less to be applied to research on the use of instructional methods for non-English-speaking students that do not include instruction in the students' native language.

Fifty percent of any appropriation above $140 million would be spent for those purposes. No more than a total of 10 percent of an annual bilingual-education appropriation could be used for alternative methods of instruction, however.

Since the creation of the Bilingual Education Act in 1968, recipients of federal bilingual-education funding have been required by law to instruct students in their native language while they learn English--a practice commonly known as transitional bilingual education.

Fiscal 1985 Budget

The Reagan Administration has proposed a budget of nearly $140 million for the program in fiscal 1985.

The committee's decision last week to ease that requirement was the result of a compromise between Democrats, who, with the support of the bilingual-education organizations, favored continuing the native-language requirement, and Republicans, who advocated lifting the requirement.

Representative Steve Bartlett, Republican of Texas and one of the authors of the compromise language, said that both sides were "equally unhappy" with the agreement, but that it made the bilingual legislation "worthy of support."

But Representative William F. Goodling, Republican of Pennsylvania, said of the earmarking of 4 percent of bilingual appropriations for alternative instructional methods "indicates we recognize that we are wrong in mandating one type of instruction from Washington. I hope that we [in Congress] never again dictate the type of instruction to be used. It is a frightening thing."

The ranking minority member of the committee, Representative John N. Erlenborn, Republican of Illinois, said the compromise "gives some small, I emphasize small, flexibility to school systems.

"But we would be better off withdrawing fully from setting curriculum for the schools."

The compromise language superseded that in an amendment passed late last month by the panel's Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education Subcommittee that, among other things, would have required the continued use of students' native language in bilingual programs.

Other Amendments

The committee also passed an amendment to HR 11 designed to improve the chances that grants under the Women's Educational Equity Act would go to public institutions and another amendment prohibiting the President from removing members of federal educational advisory committees before their terms expire.

It defeated a proposal by Representative Goodling to reduce spending on impact aid--payments made to school systems that have federal installations within their borders--by $27 million and to restructure the formula for the payments. The committee also rejected a Goodling proposal to allow school systems to spend up to 1 percent of their federal education funds on the removal of asbestos from schools.

Opponents of the asbestos amendment, including the committee's chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, argued that such a provision would dissuade Congressional appropriations committees from funding asbestos-removal laws already in place.

Such provisions have existed since 1980, but the Congress has never funded them. Mr. Perkins said last week that he expects funding for the programs to be appropriated this year.

The bill passed by the Education and Labor Committee last week also reauthorizes Indian education, the General Education Provisions Act, adult education, and the Close-Up program through 1989. It now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.--tt

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