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Schools' 'Good Faith' May Limit Asbestos Fines

The Environmental Protection Agency may not fine schools that make a "good faith'' effort to meet the first deadline of the new federal asbestos law but are unable to do so, an agency official told a House panel last week.

The law, which went into effect in December, requires all schools to inspect their buildings for the potentially hazardous substance and to submit management plans to state authorities by Oct. 12 of this year.

The hearing of the House subcommittee on transportation, tourism, and hazardous materials focused on the two major issues considered by Senate panels last month: whether there are enough consultants to inspect school buildings and write management plans and whether schools have received sufficient guidance from the EPA (See Education Week, March 23, 1988.)

The Congress is considering four bills, including one introduced late last month, that would extend the deadline for compliance with the first phase of the new law by as much as 18 months, a move supported by education groups representing school administrators and school-board members.

The EPA, to date, has not taken a position on the deadline-extension issue and has not estimated how many consultants will be necessary to carry out the law's provisions.

At last week's hearing, John A. Moore, the agency's assistant administrator in the office of pesticides and toxic substances, proposed an enforcement plan that would acknowledge the fact that some public and private schools may have difficulty finding EPA-certified consultants.

He said the agency may negotiate a "compliance schedule'' with schools that have in the past complied with EPA regulations and have made a "good faith'' attempt to meet the new deadline.

"If the [school] performs all the activities required in the compliance schedule within the timeframes stipulated by the compliance schedule, no money may actually be collected or we may elect to return the money to the [school],'' he said.

The law allows the agency to levy fines of up to $5,000 for each infraction.


Alien Foster Children Held Eligible for Legalization

Illegal-immigrant children who are or have been in foster care will no longer be disqualified from becoming legal residents, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has ruled.

Under the immigration-reform measures adopted in 1987, aliens are required to prove that they are "not likely to become a financial charge.'' Immigrant children whose foster parents received cash assistance were thus previously barred from legal-alien status.

In response to many inquiries on the eligibility of foster children for legalization, an agency review concluded that children in such programs would not be considered to have received public cash assistance, but rather in-kind assistance.

The policy change follows a federal suit filed last month to protect the right of children under foster care to become legal residents. The suit was filed by New York City and the Legal Aid Society.


Agencies Offer Advice On Workplace Literacy

The Education Department, in conjunction with the Labor Department, last week issued a guidebook for enhancing workplace literacy.

Responding to "widespread illiteracy in the workplace'' and the need for more-skilled workers, the two departments, with the help of consultants, jointly prepared the guidebook, entitled The Bottom Line: Basic Skills in the Workplace.

It details how to conduct a "literacy audit''--a process firms can use to determine what basic skills their workers need to carry out job tasks--concrete examples of programs and methods that work, and suggestions on how firms can get help in providing basic-skills programs.

Copies of the 50-page booklet can be obtained free by writing The Bottom Line, Division of Adult Education, Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Reporters Building, Room 522, Washington, D.C. 20202.

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