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Main Programs for Schools Kept at Fiscal 1985 Levels

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Washington--William J. Bennett, the new Secretary of Education, inherits the difficult task of having to sell to the Congress a $15.5-billion Education Department budget for fiscal 1986 that includes deep cuts in popular higher-education programs and reductions or spending freezes in most elementary- and secondary-education programs.

The education budget is part of a $973.7-billion executive spending plan for 1986 that projects a deficit of $180 billion for the year.

Former Acting Secretary of Education Gary L. Jones, who headed the department pending Mr. Bennett's confirmation, said at a briefing on the budget proposals last week that the Administration rejected a tax increase and a slowdown in the military buildup as means to shrink the deficit, instead seeking cuts in domestic programs to prevent the cumulative national debt from climbing to more than $1 trillion.

Congressional Opposition

"It's anybody's guess" whether the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate will agree to the proposals for the fiscal year that begins next Oct. 1, Mr. Jones said at his final public appearance at the department.

(Mr. Bennett was sworn in as secretary at the White House last Thursday by Attorney General William French Smith after the Senate had voted 93-0 last Wednesday to confirm his nomination.)

Democratic and Republican Congres6sional leaders, who rejected most of President Reagan's budget and policy proposals in education during his first term, have already stated their opposition to the higher-education cuts.

Although Mr. Reagan last month formally relinquished one oft-stated goal, pledging not to seek abolition of the Education Department "at this time," his fiscal 1986 budget includes other policy proposals that closely resemble those of previous years. They include a call for the introduction of tuition tax credits and Chapter 1 vouchers, and the elimination of impact-aid "B" payments, which go to school districts where parents live or work on federal installations.

The 1986 budget calls for the elimination of about $174 million in 1985 funds already approved by the Congress. These cuts, known as rescissions, include $80 million in elementary and secondary programs; $30 million in immigrant education; $59.8 million in higher education; and $4.2 million in the departmental-administration budget.

The budget also requests $665 million more in fiscal 1985 funds to cover costs in the Guaranteed Student Loan program.

The Congress appropriated $17.6 billion for the Education Department in fiscal 1985; the President had requested $15.5 billion.

Budget Details

The new budget would slash spending for financial aid to college students from $8.6 billion in fiscal 1985 to $6.3 billion. It would limit grant aid to students from families with incomes of under $25,000; limit direct loans to students from families whose income is below $32,500; and impose a cap of $4,000 per student on federally subsidized aid. (See related story on page 1.)

While spending for the biggest precollegiate-education programs would be for the most part frozen, the President is asking for a deep cut in federal school-lunch subsidies, which would eliminate subsidies to children from middle-income families. The total child-nutrition budget would fall from $3.8 billion to $3.43 billion in fiscal 1986.

Under Mr. Reagan's plan, spending for elementary- and secondary-education programs would rise to 46 percent, from 40 percent in the 1985 forecast, of the department's total budget; the proportion for higher education would fall from 49 percent to 42 percent.

Following are budget highlights for preschool, elementary, and secondary education; most of these funds would be spent in the 1986-87 school year:

Compensatory Education: Chapter 1 grants to state and local educational agencies for disadvantaged elementary-school students would be cut by $41 million, to $3.65 billion.

Grants to lea's--which are distributed on the basis of a statutory formula--would remain at $3.2 billion, while money earmarked for state aid to migrant-education programs would be cut from $264 million to $223 million.

Migrant students would be ineligible if they remained in one place for more than two years, instead of the current five. This change would have to be approved by the Congress.

The Administration also requests rescissions from the fiscal 1985 budget of $30 million--to terminate the emergency immigrant-education program--and about $7.5 million to eliminate the high-school-equivalency program for migrants and the college-assistance migrant program.

Head Start: Fiscal 1986 spending for this program, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, would be frozen at its current level of $1.075 billion. The Congress had reauthorized the program at $1.2 billion for fiscal 1986.

The Administration estimates that handicapped children will constitute about 10 percent of the projected 448,250 children served under the program.

Chapter 2 and Special Pro-3grams: Funding for education block grants to states and for the Secretary's discretionary fund would remain at $532 million. Also frozen is the $100-million fund for improving science and mathematics education.

The new budget would eliminate a number of small programs, including the $75-million magnet-schools program and the $5-million excellence-in-education fund, which were funded by the Congress last year. In addition, no funds were requested for two other new programs approved by the Congress last year, the Talented Teachers Act and the school administrators' training program.

At the briefing last week, Mr. Jones said that magnet schools were eligible for Chapter 2 funds.

Other programs targeted for elimination are Women's Educational Equity, aid to the Virgin Islands, Territorial Teacher Training, Ellender Fellowships to bring pupils to the District of Columbia to show them how government works, and Follow Through. Money for civil-rights technical assistance under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be cut from $24 million to $16 million.

Special Education: Grants to states that qualify for funds to provide appropriate education for handicapped students would remain frozen at $1.16 billion. This includes $29 million in preschool incentive grants, which states may use for children from birth to age 5.

To qualify for grants, a state must submit to the Education Department an acceptable plan for the development and use of individualized education programs. The programs must provide services not only to students ages 6 to 17 but also ages 3 to 5 and 18 to 21, according to budget documents.

Total budget authority for special-education services would fall from $1.32 billion to $1.30 billion.

Bilingual Education: The funding level for bilingual-education programs would be frozen at $143 million, although the department estimates that the number of children served would increase by 19,736, to 225,987. To meet those needs, budget documents note, basic-grants funds would be increased from $95 million to $104 million.

Training grants would be cut, however, by $9.6 million, to $24 million, because of "research findings which indicate that the demand for new bilingual-education teachers is far less than previously believed,'' according to budget-briefing material prepared by the Education Department.

According to the briefing paper, the department will ask the Congress to remove the current ceiling on funding for "alternative approaches to bilingual education, such as English-as-a-second language and immersion"; these approaches were first authorized in the new Bilingual Education Act passed by the Congress last year.

Vocational Education: Although the Congress authorized $950 million for vocational-education programs for fiscal 1985, the new budget does not ask for a supplemental appropriation but requests a freeze in the current $738-million budget level.

The budget proposal would eliminate the consumer- and homemaker-education program and transfer the $32 million earmarked for those activities into the $716-million account for basic grants.

Impact Aid: Once again, the Reagan Administration is seeking to eliminate $130 million in category "B" payments. This money goes to school districts in which parents live or work at federal installations.

The total budget request for impact aid is $543 million, a reduction of $152 million from the current $695 million.

Educational Research: The Administration proposes freezing the 1986 budgets of the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Institute of Education at their current levels.

The nces would receive $9 million.

The nie, which will award competitive grants to eight new educational laboratories and 11 new research centers this year, would receive $51 million in fiscal 1986.

The $125-million public-library program is slated for elimination in fiscal 1986. The program pays for library construction and services, librarian-training services, and research-library services.

The proposal would also cut the budget of the National Assessment of Educational Progress from $5.4 million to $4 million.

Office for Civil Rights: The new budget asks for a $541,000 rescission in the office's $45-million budget for fiscal 1985, and requests $43 million for fiscal 1986.

In other department offices, the budget would cut the number of full-time-equivalent positions at the Education Department by 261, to 4,579. That reduction would bring the department's overall staff decrease to 38.2 percent of its January 1981 level.

Other Programs

Nutrition Programs: The Administration seeks to eliminate school-lunch subsidies for students from middle-income families--those with incomes "exceeding 185 percent of the poverty level," according to the proposed legislation. (In 1983, the Census Bureau's weighted-average poverty line for households of four was $10,178.)

The total child-nutrition budget would fall from $3.8 billion to $3.43 billion.

The proposed legislation "will better target nutrition benefits to needy children by discontinuing subsidies to high-income students [and] moderate meal-subsidy increases," the Administration argues.

But an advocacy group, the Food Research and Action Center, charged that the "the [federal] subsidy for paid meals helps to keep the price low enough so that moderate-income students can continue to participate in the program." The new cuts, if enacted, would, along with cuts passed in 1981, cause at least 5 million students to drop out of the school-lunch program, frac estimates.

The budget of the nutritional program for women, infants, and children would rise to $1.51 billion from $1.45 billion.

National Endowment for the Humanities: The budget of the agency headed until last week by Mr. Bennett would suffer a $13.5-million cut in fiscal 1986, dropping to $126 million from $139.5 million, according to the President's request. The fiscal 1984 appropriation was $140 million.

The new proposal includes a reduction of about $2 million from the $7.3 million now earmarked for humanities instruction in elementary and secondary schools. On the other hand, support for summer seminars for secondary-school humanities teachers would increase from $3 million to $3.6 million.

National Endowment for the Arts: The Administration would cut the budget from $163.7 million to $144.5 million.

The account that funds the bulk of the endowment's projects would be reduced by $16.5 million, to $132.2 million from $148.7 million.

Job Training: The budget forms authorized by the Job3Training Partnership Act would fall from about $3.7 billion to $2.8 billion.

This includes an attempt to phase out the Job Corps program and a $100-million rescission in the summer youth employment and training program. The summer program would receive $724.5 million under Mr. Reagan's plan.

The Administration also seeks to eliminate the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit, which gives employers tax credits for employing disadvantaged youth; it is due to expire Dec. 31 of this year.

Immunizations: The budget of the immunization program, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and aimed at eliminating a number of childhood diseases as public-health problems, would hold steady at $54.3 million.

Other Revenue Losses

According to Dena G. Stoner, legislative director of the National School Boards Association here, public schools may lose far more than the Education Department's freezes in elementary- and secondary-education spending may indicate.

"Everywhere you look in the budget, we've been smacked," Ms. Stoner said, noting that there are several "hidden" provisions in the proposed budget that would further reduce money available to local school districts.

Among the relevant proposals, she said, are plans to change the payment rate to states on federal forest receipts and mineral-leasing rights; a portion of the money states receive from these programs goes to education, she pointed out.

The Administration also proposes to eliminate the federal revenue-sharing program. In fiscal 1983, the latest year for which data are available, states received $4.6 billion in revenue-sharing funds, of which $372.9 million was spent on education, the Census Bureau estimates. Most of the revenue-sharing money is used for public safety.

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