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Senate Panel Allots $21.5 Billion for E.D.

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The Senate Budget Committee last week approved a $1.1-trillion budget resolution that would boost education funding by $1.2 billion over the current level of $20.3 billion.

The increase would set funding for federal education activities at about $21.5 billion, which falls short of the $21.9 billion included in the House budget resolution, but exceeds the Administration's proposal of $21.2 billion.

Education lobbyists expressed fears, however, that portions of the proposed increase would be diverted from education programs during the appropriations process.

They noted that the Senate resolution's proposed increase for the entire Function-500 category, which includes the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services as well as Education, is only $1.4 billion.

Providing education programs the full $1.2-billion increase they are slated to have in the Senate resolution, they pointed out, would leave only $200 million in spending increases for the other two agencies.

More Had Been Sought

When the resolution reaches the appropriations stage later this month, they predicted, funds may be reallocated among the agencies.

In the House budget resolution, the Function-500 category's total increase is $2.4 billion.

Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, had recommended, with the panel's ranking Republican, Robert T. Stafford of Vermont, a $22.6-billion education budget--representing an 11 percent increase over the current appropriation.

Their recommendation included $50 million to restore cuts that were made in fiscal 1988; $750 million for an inflation adjustment for all education programs; and an additional $1.5 billion for targeted programs such as Pell Grants and Chapter 1.

But the Budget Committee, operating under the constraints of a budget agreement between the Congress and the White House designed to reduce the deficit, went with the more conservative figure of $21.5 billion.

The committee did not suggest specific figures for individual programs. The resolution is expected to be voted on by the full Senate in two weeks, after which the budget will move to the Appropriations subcommittees.

'A Good Start'

In the House, the Appropriations Subcommitee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education began a series of hearings on education funding last week with sessions on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, bilingual education, impact aid, libraries, and educational research.

Representative William Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the subcommittee, complimented Education Department officials for sending up a budget request "that is a good start.''

"These are the kinds of budgets you should have brought to us in the past,'' Mr. Natcher said.

The department has requested nearly $4.6 billion for Chapter 1 compensatory education, a $230-million increase over the current level.

In response to questioning by Mr. Natcher, department officials said a portion of that increase would be targeted to rural areas.

The officals also reassured Representative Silvio O. Conte, Republican of Massachusetts, that the department was working closely with private schools to improve Chapter 1 services to their students.

Research Picture 'Grim'

Mr. Natcher expressed concern over a recent government study showing that the number of grants for education research had dropped significantly since 1980. He asked the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, Chester E. Finn Jr., what effect the reduction has had.

Mr. Finn responded that the effect was "pretty grim.''

"We are, for better or for worse, the only sponsor of national education statistics and a leader in education research,'' Mr. Finn said. "As research comes in from fewer and fewer places, the competition of ideas dwindles.''

The assistant secretary noted that the department had been working systematically since 1985 to increase the number of grants awarded for research, but had been hampered by inadequate funding.

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