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Federal File: At last; Held up

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The New York City schools officially applied for federal drug-education funds on Feb. 14--more than two years after the money was appropriated for fiscal 1987.

Tired of repeated criticism from the Congress on the speed with which they have distributed anti-drug money, Education Department officials have been increasingly open in recent months about their frustration over the delay.

"I can't stand to listen to him say that, when the schools in his district haven't even applied," Mahlon Anderson, a spokesman for Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, fumed after Representative Major R. Owens, a Democrat from Brooklyn, complained about the grant distribution schedule at a February hearing.

Vincent B. Giordano, deputy director of substance-abuse programs for the New York Board of Education, said news reports have unfairly singled out the city, when it was one of 200 districts in the state that had not applied by the 14th.

The city did not get an application until December 1987, due to a dispute about the state's allocation methods, he said. Then the board had to solicit separate applications from 32 subdistricts and coordinate the inclusion of some 650 private schools.

In any case, Mr. Giordano said, there is no chance that New York will fail to spend its $2.8-million 1987 allocation before it lapses in October--a possibility department officials and lawmakers have said they are worried about.

That amount represents only about $2 per student, he said. The city is to receive an additional $3.15 million for fiscal 1988.


Several Education Department officials said in recent weeks that news of some ed appointments was on the verge of release, but the White House was too preoccupied with John Tower, who was rejected as secretary of defense late last week, to give the final go-ahead.

"They don't even want to talk about anything but John Tower," one official said.

In fact, the nomination of Ted Sanders, superintendent of public instruction in Illinois, as undersecretary was announced shortly after Tower's defeat.

Recent news reports have criticized the pace at which the Bush Administration has filled jobs.

But while Terrel H. Bell had been confirmed as secretary, the only other education appointment that had been announced by the Reagan Administration in early March 1981 was that of Undersecretary William Clohan. Mr. Bell said in a 1987 book that the delay was due to wrangling between himself and White House conservatives.

--jm

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