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Court Upholds Voc.-Ed. Center Grant

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WASHINGTON--A federal appeals court has vindicated the Education Department in its handling of the grant competition for the National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in July overturned a lower-court ruling that had ordered the department to void its grant award to the University of California at Berkeley and to conduct a new competition.

Ohio State University, which has housed the research center for the past 10 years, had turned to the courts in late January, after federal education officials announced that the five-year, $30-million grant would be awarded to Berkeley despite a report by the General Accounting Office indicating that there may have been flaws in the selection process.

In March, U.S. District Judge George C. Smith of the Southern Ohio District ruled in favor of Ohio State, saying that the consortium concept in the Berkeley application was not in line with Congressional intent for the center, as stated in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act.

The judge also said that Berkeley should not have been allowed to make changes in its application after the competition began.

Subcontractor Said Permissible

In overturning that decision, the appeals-court panel said that the law does allow for a subcontractual arrangement with other institutions and that technical amendments to the application are allowable after the grant competition is under way.

Ray Ryan, director of the center at Ohio State, said the university would not appeal the Sixth Circuit ruling.

Education Department officials said that plans to conduct a new competition have been halted.

"The court's speedy and favorable decision clears the way for the Education Department to reinstate [Berkeley's] grant,'' said Bonnie Guiton, assistant secretary for vocational education.

"The department expects to act promptly so that the important business of improving the nation's system of vocational education can go forward.''

Charles Benson, director of the Berkeley center, said that the suit had delayed some projects but that the new center had "some exciting research in progress.''

One project already under way is a 50-state survey on how vocational-education efforts are organized governmentally.

The survey is being conducted by the RAND Corporation, a consortium member.

In addition to RAND and Berkeley, consortium members include the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, Teachers College of Columbia University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Although the Ohio State center has lost the federal grant, Mr. Ryan said, it will continue to conduct vocational-education research.

"We have $2.5 million in projects outside the federal grant,'' he said. "We are still going to remain a significant center in the United States.''

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