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E.D. Proceeds on $75 Million in Magnet Funds

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Washington--The Education Department was to announce last Friday the availability of $75 million in new federal magnet-school funds, a department official said last week.

The deadline for applications for the competitive grants would be 45 days after the announcement in the Federal Register, Lois A. Bowman, deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, told the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the department budget, in one of a series of hearings on the agency's fiscal 1986 budget.

The department's progress in releasing the money was questioned last month by a group of 43 senators, who expressed their concern in a letter to Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. The senators had charged that the department was stalling distribution of the money--approved by the Congress for the 1985-86 school year--and the publication of regulations, because the Administration had asked that the $75-million appropriation be rescinded.

The statutory deadline for Congressional action on rescissions passed last month with no action, so the department is obliged to spend the money. Ms. Bowman said that about 1,000 school districts are eligible for the money, which was approved as part of the Education for Economic Security Act of 1984.

Delay in Regulations

But Mr. Bennett in an April 16 reply to the senators gave no indication of when final regulations will be completed. Draft rules were published in the Nov. 23 Federal Register and comments were solicited until Jan. 7. Since then, "the process of carrying out the law has stopped," the senators' April 5 letter had charged.

The legislators' letter was initiated by Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York, and signed by Senators Robert T. Stafford, chairman of the Senate education subcommittee, and Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee.

The Secretary said that the delay in promulgating final rules has been due to "the large number of comments ... and our commitment to careful analysis and consideration" of them.

But a spokesman for Senator Moynihan said research by the Senator's staff indicated that the department had received only 33 relatively short comments, in response to the draft rules.

Meanwhile, four House members were collecting signatures last week for their own letter to Mr. Bennett to express concern about the delay in carrying out the program.--jh

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