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Federal File: Surprise: Endorsement

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They might not realize it, but the 83 senators who recently approved an $18.3-billion fiscal 1986 Education Department budget simultaneously endorsed Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's bilingual-education initiative.

Buried on page 166 of the Appropriations Committee report accompanying the $105-billion spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education was a statement of support for the flexibility that Mr. Bennett seeks in the bilingual-education program--which now mandates use of the transitional method, in which non-English-speaking students receive some instruction in their native language.

The nonbinding recommendation, proposed by the Republican committee chairman, Mark O. Hatfield, says in part, "The Committee encourages the Secretary to pursue administrative, regulatory, and legislative actions which ... allow local schools and parents the flexibility to determine which method of instruction would be most appropriate for their children."

The report also noted the committee's "dismay" that despite a "significant investment" in bilingual education, "the evidence does not indicate that the transitional bilingual-education approach is the most effective method of teaching limited-English-proficient students."


That same report urges Mr. Bennett "to commit resources to the greatest extent possible" to examine implementation of South Carolina's education-reform bill. The committee recognized the state's Educational Improvement Act as "a blueprint for strengthening public education nationwide."

South Carolina's junior senator, Ernest F. Hollings, a Democrat, is a member of the Appropriations Committee's education panel.


Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman of New Jersey sought guidance from the Education Department on whether a certain practice for providing Chapter 1 remedial aid to religious-school students was constitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Aguilar v. Felton--which barred Chapter 1 teachers from the premises of religious schools.

In response, Lawrence F. Davenport, the department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, wrote on Sept. 5:

"We have received indications that the response to Question #1 in the Department's August 15 Guidance on Felton is being interpreted by your State to mean that services cannot be provided in a mobile van parked on property owned by the private school. Our response to Question #1 did not intend to answer the question as to whether that specific practice is permissible. That question was not before the Court in Felton, and the Court's decision does not speak directly to that practice. The Department is not therefore in a position to respond to the question beyond the guidance previously given.

"I hope this letter is helpful to you."--jh

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