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Reagan To Seek $3-Billion CutIn E.D. Budget

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James Hertling

Washington--President Reagan proposes to cut the Education Department's budget by $3 billion, to $15.5 billion, for the year that begins Oct. 1, according to budget documents obtained last week.

The department spending plan was included in the President's proposed federal budget for fiscal 1986, which was sent to the Congress on Monday of this week.

Mr. Reagan had requested $15.5 billion for the department in the current fiscal year, but the Congress, which can accept or reject his proposals, approved a record $17.6 billion. That figure will probably rise to $18.5 billion mainly to cover the cost of guaranteed student loans, according to the Administration estimate.

At his Senate confirmation hearing last week, Secretary-designate of Education
William J. Bennett said he supported the concept of a spending freeze as a way to trim the federal budget deficit and advocated a cap on federal student aid. (See related story on page 9.)

Higher Education Hit

Higher-education programs would be the hardest hit under the proposals, according to the budget documents, while elementary- and secondary-education accounts would be reduced by $357 million. That sum includes proposed cuts in 1985 funding that the Congress has already approved.

Spending authority for the Guaranteed Student Loan program would be slashed by $1.03 billion, to $2.71 billion. And Pell Grant funds would be reduced by $884 million, to $2.7 billion.

Moreover, the proposed budget would stiffen eligibility requirements for federal postsecondary-student aid. Financial assistance will reportedly be limited to $4,000 per student and to families with incomes below $32,500.

Chapter 2 Held Steady

Among elementary- and secondary-education programs, Chapter 2--which includes block grants to states and localities and the Secretary's discretionary fund--would hold steady at $532 million.

Compensatory-education funds would be cut by $41 million, from about $3.7 billion to about $3.65 billion.

Most of the money for elementary- and secondary-education programs in fiscal 1986 will be used in the 1986-87 school year.

Several other programs whose budgets will not be cut include: vocational education, which would remain at $838 million; bilingual education, at $143 million; the National Institute of Education, $51 million; and the National Center for Education Statistics, $9 million.

Funds for special-education programs would be reduced by $15 million to $1.306 billion. State grant funds would stay at $1.16 billion; the cut would come out of the department's discretionary grants funds.

Rehabilitation Services Cut

Similarly, discretionary funds for rehabilitation services would be cut by $17 million, to $77 million; spending for other rehabilitation-services programs would be frozen at about $1.2 billion.

As he has in previous years, Mr. Reagan proposes a sharp cutback in impact aid and the reduction or elimination of several small programs--including Women's Education Equity, Follow Through, civil-rights training and advisory services, and aid to the Virgin Islands.

Impact-aid payments would be cut by $152 million, from $695 million to $543 million. This money, earmarked for districts where parents live or work at federal installations, has been reinstated by the Congress each time the Administration has sought to eliminate it.

Also slated for elimination are the $30 million appropriated in the current fiscal year for emergency immigrant education and the $125-million public-library program.

Nutrition Funding

The child-nutrition budget, which includes the school lunch program and is administered by the Agriculture Department, would fall from $3.8 billion to $3.43 billion.

Most of the reduction would result from a cut in subsidies to middle-income families. Without such a legislative change, budget documents indicate, spending would total $4.1 billion.

The nutritional program for women, infants and chidlren would rise to $1.51 billion from $1.45 billion.

Prospects

The Congress has typically rejected President Reagan's spending re-quest in education, and that re6sponse appears unlikely to change dramatically this year.

If the Congress acts to implement a spending freeze, which key legislators--preoccupied with the $200-billion-plus federal deficit--now seem to support, the fiscal 1986 budget for the department would remain around $18 billion.

In fiscal 1983, for example, Mr. Reagan requested $9.9 billion, but the Congress approved $15.4 billion. And for the current fiscal year, although the President changed tactics and requested the highest budget in history for the department, the Congress approved still more.

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