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The Senate, by voice vote, has passed a bill that would end the ban on the teaching of secular humanism in programs funded by federal magnet-school money.

This measure was included in the reauthorization bill for the National Science Foundation. The bill, HR 1210, includes amendments that refine and extend for three years the magnet-school program and the initiative to upgrade mathematics and science instruction. It also includes technical amendments for the vocational-education and special-education programs.

The ban on secular humanism has become an ideologically charged issue; some parents' groups have expressed their support, but a group of prominent authors has filed suit against the government charging that the requirement is unconstitutional. The bill simply drops the language reguarding secular humanism, which the Education Department does not define in the regulations.

The bill freezes the authorized spending ceiling for the nsf at billion and its mathematics and engineering budget at $50.5 million.

The House-passed nsf reauthor-ization does not include either the extensions for the other education programs or the provision on secular humanism. A House-Senate conference will iron out the differences in the bills.

The primary author of a major federal study on literacy said last week that the Congress should give reading "the attention commensurate with its importance as a national priority" and earmark $4 million to $5 million a year specifically for reading research, about half of which would be used to fund a "strong" national center for such work.

Richard C. Anderson, chairman of the commission that produced Becoming a Nation of Readers, also recommended investing in early-childhood education and warned lawmakers not to seek "simplistic solutions" to the difficulties associated with learning to read.

Mr. Anderson was one of several prominent educators who appeared before two joint hearings last week on the problem of illiteracy in America held by the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate education subcommittee.

Others who testified included David P. Gardner, the chairman of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which produced "A Nation at Risk," and Jonathan Kozol, author of Illiterate America and Death at an Early Age.

The chairman of the House panel, Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California, said he hoped to draft an omnibus education bill to help promote literacy.

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