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Effort Aims To Link Schools With Anti-Poverty Agencies

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Washington--Citing education as the key to "breaking the cycle of welfare dependency" for disadvantaged children, the National Association of State Boards of Education has launched an ambitious program to link educators with the state agencies that serve poor children and their families.

"Helping a welfare mother go to work will not assure the long-term self-sufficiency of her children, especially if they drop out and go on welfare," Phyllis Blaunstein, executive director of nasbe, said at a press conference held here last month to announce the project.

"Breaking or avoiding the 'welfare cycle' means assuring that the children now on welfare have the ability to support themselves and their families in the future," she said.

The three-year project, known as "Joining Forces," is being funded initially with grants totaling $105,000 from the Joyce and Ford foundations.

The National Alliance of Business and the American Public Welfare Association have also endorsed it.

Nasbe's role in promoting the cooperative efforts will be to provide assistance to state-level education and social-service agencies seeking ways to work together. Such interagency collaborations, according to the group, could include:

Mailing positive messages about education along with welfare checks;

Using welfare rolls to identify families with young children, so that they can be targeted for recruitment into early-childhood programs;

Requiring "contracts" between parents receiving welfare and the social-service agency, which could stipulate, for example, that the recipients join the local pta--with dues paid by the agency;

Encouraging teachers to set aside time after normal school hours for parents who cannot afford to take time off from work for parent-teacher conferences;

In states with a public-assistance work requirement, assigning parents on welfare to jobs in their children's schools; and,

Notifying welfare caseworkers when a child in a welfare family is truant, so that they can find out the reasons for the student's absence.

Such efforts could be under way within a year in 6 to 10 states, according to Janet Levy, director of the project. The association also plans to hold a forum this spring for personnel in state agencies interested in participating.--dv

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