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A Policy Shift on Vouchers

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Washington--Officials of the U.S. Catholic Conference this week were expected to reverse their previous position and recommend endorsement of the Reagan Administration's proposed Chapter 1 voucher legislation.

The decision of the organization's committee on public policy in Catholic schools, which was scheduled to meet here Dec. 9-10, will go to the conference's executive board for final approval.

The Catholic organization opposed similar voucher legislation in 1983 out of concern that it would "destroy" the $3.7-billion Chapter 1 program--which finances remedial education for almost 5 million students, about4200,000 of whom attend private schools--according to Richard E. Duffy, director of federal education assistance for the conference.

But the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Aguilar v. Felton barring Chapter 1 teachers from religious schools, which has prevented thousands of religious-school children from receiving the aid this year, "did a very good job of destroying Chapter 1 for private-school children," said Mr. Duffy.

The Catholic Conference's secretary of education, Thomas Gallagher, welcomed the legislation when it was unveiled last month. He called it an "answer" to the Felton decision and said that the conference would study it and "take all the appropriate actions that our study will call for."--jh

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