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Senate Panel Votes Vocational Reauthorization

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Washington--Members of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources last week unanimously approved a $900-million bill reauthorizing the federal vocational-education program, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate later this month.

The proposed reauthorization bill, S 2341, was among a number of education-related measures acted on by the committee last week, including an amendment attached to the vocational-education bill that would reauthorize the Women's Educational Equity Act.

Stalled by Disagreements

The committee's consideration of the vocational-education reauthorization bill had been delayed in recent weeks because of disagreements over provisions in the bill governing the distribution of funds to programs for expansion and improvement and to skills-training programs serving the handicapped, economically disadvantaged students, and women.

Under a compromise agreement included in the bill, states would be required to spend 50 percent of their basic vocational-education grants on training programs that serve special-needs populations and 50 percent for program improvement and expansion. The bill also would shift authority for adult training and retraining from Title II of the act, for special-needs students, to Title III, for program expansion and improvement.

Of the money provided for Title II, the bill would require the states to set aside 25 percent for programs serving the handicapped, 50 percent for programs serving disadvantaged students, 23 percent for single working parents and homemakers, and 2 percent for people in correctional fa-cilities. Under Title III, at least 30 percent of the money would be set aside for adult training and postsecondary vocational programs.

Earlier versions of the bill would have required the states to spend 67 percent of their basic grants for special-needs students and 33 percent for program expansion and improvement.

Of the money allocated for special-needs students, 20 percent would have been set aside for the handicapped, 40 percent for disadvantaged students, 20 percent for adult training, 19 percent for single parents and homemakers, and 1 percent for training programs in jails. (See Education Week, Feb. 15, 1984.)

New Approaches Urged

Despite the compromise reached by the bill's sponsors--Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont and Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island--and the committee chairman, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, there was renewed interest in increasing state and local flexibility in the distribution and use of the federal vocational-education funds.

Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana, argued that the compromise would not provide any more flexibility than the current law. "If we're really serious about getting everyone on board and seeing something work ..., we need to adopt a different kind of approach," he said.

Women's Equity Funds

In approving the vocational-education reauthorization measure, the committee also agreed to an amendment, offered by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would reauthorize programs funded under the Women's Educational Equity Act of 1974.

Senator Kennedy's proposal would allow $50 million in funding for the program.

The program, which currently receives about $5 million in funding, has been targeted for elimination by the Reagan Administration.

During last week's session, the committee also approved a bill that would reauthorize the Adult-Education Act of 1966 and increase funding from its current level of about $100 million to about $140 million in fiscal 1985.

The committee also approved bills that would reauthorize the Library Services Act and the Student Loan Consolidation Act, which would allow banks, state agencies, and secondary markets to combine students' college-aid loans.

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