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Senate Freezes Spending for Most School Programs

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Washington--The Republican-controlled Senate last week voted to freeze spending for most elementary- and secondary-education programs next year and to preserve school-lunch subsidies for middle-income students, but recommended that $130 million in impact-aid payments be eliminated.

Wrapping up more than a week of debate on a spending blueprint for fiscal 1986, the Republican leadership also agreed, before a vote could be taken, to restore much of the $686 million in higher-education cuts that the Senate leadership and the Administration had earlier agreed upon.

The higher-education provision still would cut $200 million and eliminate a proposed $8,000 cap on the amount of college costs that could be considered in determining a student's need for federal aid.3There is no legislative language in the Senate budget specifying how the $200 million in savings would be reached.

Senator Robert T. Stafford, the Vermont Republican who chairs the education subcommittee, led the effort to scale back deep cuts in student financial aid but backed the $200-million savings proposal. He said the savings could be achieved by limiting eligibility for guaranteed student loans to students from families with incomes under $60,000, tightening the criteria for independent-student status, and seeking administrative savings.

Programs for Handicapped

In another measure that did not come up for a vote, the Senate leadership agreed with Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut, to restore about $222 million in spending on programs for the handicapped.

The education-spending measures were part of a budget package the Senate approved in the early-morning hours of last Friday by a vote of 50 to 49, with Vice President Bush casting the tie-breaking vote.

Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, Republican of Kansas, announced Thursday that the Administration had agreed to a plan that would allow defense spending to rise only at the rate of inflation and would freeze cost-of-living adjustments on Social Security for the year.

The plan would retain, but trim spending for, the Job Corps program, which the Reagan Administration had sought to eliminate; however, it would phase out federal revenue-sharing with local governments.

The Senate also rejected an amendment that would allow the federal government to keep its 16-cent federal tax on cigarettes. The vote would let the federal tax fall to 8 cents, as planned, and permit states to pick up the other 8 cents by imposing their own levy. Many states have already planned to use this money for education reform. (See Education Week, Feb. 6, 1985.)

Votes on Amendments

By a vote of 50 to 47, the Senators killed an amendment that would have allowed spending for education and job-training programs aimed at the disadvantaged to rise at the rate of inflation. The measure was offered by Senator Lawton B. Chiles, Democrat of Florida.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved an amendment offered by Senator Paula Hawkins, Republican of Florida, to maintain current spending for the school-lunch program. The Administration-backed spending plan would have eliminated subsidies for students from families whose incomes are above 185 percent of the poverty line. (See related story on page 11.)

A motion to kill the Hawkins amendment was defeated by a 60-to-37 vote; the measure, which restores nearly $400 million to the budget, then passed by a voice vote.

The Senate defeated, 50 to 47, a measure offered by Senator James Abdnor, Republican of South Dakota, to reinstate $130 million for impact aid "B" payments.

These funds, which the Reagan Administration has annually sought to eliminate, go to school districts in which parents live or work on federal installations.

House Activity

Congressional sources also said that a House panel has indicated that no extra federal money for education may be forthcoming this year.

The House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Education Department budget reportedly did not add money for elementary and secondary education in a supplemental appropriations package for fiscal 1985 it approved earlier this month.

The subcommittee's recommendations are confidential until the full Appropriations panel approves the spending bill. The full committee is scheduled to meet this week.

In other budget activity, a group of House Republicans last week unveiled a package of spending cuts that would trim $100 million from the $173-million bilingual-education program, eliminate impact-aid "B" payments and Follow Through, and restructure college aid.

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