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Senate Panel Completes Draft Of School Bill

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Washington--A Senate subcommittee last week released its version of a massive bill that would reauthorize several major education programs and create some new ones.

S 373, the Senate counterpart of HR 5--the omnibus reauthorization measure passed by the House in May--is a draft and thus is likely to change. But it offers a preliminary glimpse of which old issues and new ideas are likely to be wrangled over in a House-Senate conference, and which changes to familiar programs are likely to be adopted.

Like the House bill, it would amend and extend until 1993 the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, Chapter 2 block grants, the Bilingual Education Act, the magnet-schools-assistance program, impact aid, the Adult Education Act, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, mathematics and science programs created under the Education for Economic Security Act, and a host of smaller programs.

In addition, the Senate bill includes several proposals for new programs that would provide federal aid for a broad range of purposes.

These include projects to encourage family-school cooperation, experiments with parental-choice systems, purchase of computer and telecommunications equipment, and magnet-school projects undertaken for academic reasons, rather than for promoting racial balance.

The so-called "elementary and secondary education improvement act" is scheduled for consideration this week by the Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee.

The Senate bill adopts many modifications to Chapter 1 contained in HR 5, such as accountability provisions requiring districts to improve failing programs; a parental-involvement mandate; a relaxation of rules to allow more schools to apply their grants building-wide; rules allowing successful districts to be rewarded, rather than penalized, for student improvement; creation of a new, separate grant fund for secondary schools; and a provision calling for concentration grants to target additional funding to the poorest districts.

Under the Senate draft, the eligibility formula would differ slightly from that in the House bill. In addition, S 373 would authorize "concentration grants" only if the total Chapter 1 appropriation exceeds $4.3 billion. The House bill, in contrast, earmarks the first $400 million above the current $3.9-billion level for those grants. Both bills would protect existing funding.

The Senate measure also adopted the House's $25-million "Even Start'' program, which would finance adult-literacy and preschool programs.

The subcommittee apparently did not include in its bill a provision guaranteeing small states a minimum share of Chapter 1 funds, as its chairman, Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, had proposed. The bill does, however, guarantee each state at least 0.5 percent of the total funding for concentration grants and Chapter 2 block grants.

Like HR 5, the Senate measure would change the allocation formula for Chapter 2 to funnel more to districts with "high cost" students and would restrict funds--which can now be used for almost any instructional purpose--to a short list of priorities.

The list is less restrictive than in Senator Pell's original proposal, but more stringent than in the House bill. It includes programs for high-risk students and gifted students,el15lsecondary-school basic-skills programs, literacy projects, acquisition of library materials, and programs promoting school reform or student achievement and excellence.

HR 5, by contrast, lists programs for high-risk students, acquisition of educational materials, personnel-enhancement programs, "effective schools" projects, and "special projects," which could include suicide- or child-abuse-prevention programs, and programs for gifted students.

The House bill requires districts to use 25 percent of their grants for "effective schools" projects that promote reform objectives, while S 373 includes a separate, $25-million effective-schools grant program.

The "Jacob K. Javits gifted and talented children and youth education act" is common to both bills. It would aid research, demonstration projects, and staff training in that area, and establish a national center for research on teaching gifted children.

A major difference remains in the bills' resolution of the controversy4over how much bilingual-education funding should be available for alternative approaches using primarily English. The Reagan Administration has pressed successfully for more flexibility in the statute, but the funding question remains.

S 373 includes a compromise passed last spring by the full Labor and Human Resources Committee that would raise from 4 percent to 25 percent the amount the Education Department could allot to English-based programs. HR 5 would allow the department to distribute any increased funding as it sees fit.

The Senate draft also diverges from its House counterpart in that it does not include language on audit reform or prohibiting the Education Department from adding a "program significance panel" to the review process for National Diffusion Network projects.

The Senate bill does include amendments to the impact-aid program on which program advocates could not agree while HR 5 was being drafted. The changes would decrease the number of categories that eligible school districts are divided into, and would change the allocation formula to allow "less severely impacted" districts to receive some funding. Most impact aid now goes to districts with a greater federal presence.

The bill also limits the appropriation's growth to $40 million a year.

New programs proposed by S 373 with no HR 5 counterpart include:

A $15-million parental-choice program, offering grants to districts interested in experimenting with open-enrollment plans. The money could be spent on programs to improve schools, establish more distinctive schools, or widen course offerings.

An expansion of the magnet-schools-assistance program that would provide grants to districts interested in establishing or improving magnet-school systems for reasons other than achieving racial balance. Both the House and Senate bills would also raise the authorization8ceiling for the existing program from $75 million to $115 million.

A $5-million program that would fund demonstration projects designed to encourage family-school partnerships in Chapter 1-eligible schools, and create a national clearinghouse on family involvement in education.

A $10-million "Fund for Innovation in Education," through which the Secretary of Education could support innovative projects to "strengthen elementary and secondary education."

A new education program for limited-English-proficient adults.

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