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Reagan To Seek Hike In Magnet-School Aid

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Suitland, Md--In a speech to a predominantly black student audience at a magnet high school here last week, President Reagan announced that he would seek a substantial increase in funding for the federal magnet-schools program.

Under the proposal disclosed by Mr. Reagan at Suitland High School, spending would jump from the current $72 million to $115 million--an amount that would match the ceiling set by pending reauthorization legislation. Current law authorizes $75 million in magnet-schools assistance.

The proposed hike will be included in the fiscal 1989 budget the Administration is set to unveil in mid-February.

In his remarks here, Mr. Reagan applauded the Prince George's County school district, located in suburban Washington, for its effective use of federal magnet-school aid.

"In 1987, a $4-million federal grant from the Department of Education went to Prince George's County for the kind of magnet school you have here at Suitland," he said.

"I wish all federal programs gave that kind of return on the dollar."

Suitland High, one of several magnet schools created by the district in response to a 1985 desegregation order, offers a special college-preparatory program and an arts curriculum, as well as vocational and general tracks.

District officials have attributed improvements in county test scores and dropout rates in recent years to the district's emphasis on several favorite Administration themes: parental choice, discipline, and accountability for student success or failure.

"I wanted to prove that a majority-minority school system can compete with affluent, white school districts across America," Superintendent of Schools John A. Murphy told Mr. Reagan.

"Mr. President, public education does work, and these young people are going to be ready for the 21st century," he said.

Suitland High is 84 percent black, and blacks constitute 62 percent of the county's overall enrollment.

Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, who introduced Mr. Reagan, noted that local officials who also addressed the assembly had stressed "accountability, high expectations, choice, positive attitudes."

"These are ideas that work in Prince George's County and will also work all over the country," he said.

President Reagan, whom Mr. Bennett described as "a man deeply committed to the education of students," echoed many of those themes in his brief speech.

He pledged support for initiatives to increase parental choice, reward educators for boosting student achievement, and allow talented people to become teachers through "alternative certification" routes.

The President also repeated his anti-drug message, calling a recent survey showing decreases in student drug use "good news."

In a question-and-answer session with pre-selected students, he peppered his remarks with jokes and anecdotes.

'Just Keep Knocking'

Mr. Reagan advised the students not to worry if they had not yet formulated their career goals, telling them he was still undecided when he graduated from college.

He recounted how he won a job as a radio sports announcer by auditioning with a play-by-play description of a football game he had played in.

"Just keep knocking on doors until someone lets you in," he advised.

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