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E.D. Officials Defend Proposal To Shave Their Budget by 1.1%

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Washington--Education Department officials said last week that a proposed 1.1 percent cut in the department's budget for the current fiscal year would not significantly affect its largest programs.

In transmitting a proposal for supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 1989, President Bush proposed rescinding funds for all domestic discretionary programs by 1.1 percent to pay for the increases he is requesting.

The supplemental-appropriations request would give the department an additional $892 million to cover shortfalls in the Stafford student-loan entitlement program.

But almost $16 billion of the department's $21.9-billion 1989 budget would be subject to the 1.1 percent cut, which officials said would shave $185 million from its spending authority. That would include a $50-million cut from the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, $64 million from financial aid, and $24 million from special-education and rehabilitation programs.

But Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos and Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, told a Congressional subcommittee last week that the Chapter 1 and Pell Grant programs, two of education's largest, would not be severely affected.

Less money than expected will be needed for the Pell program, Mr. Kolb said, because students are qualifying for smaller grants and colleges are returning unused money faster than expected.

He also said that the department would "see to it" that students were not dropped from Chapter 1 because of the proposed cut.

"We will do whatever we can to make sure that the cuts will not affect services," Mr. Kolb said.

Because most education programs are "forward-funded," meaning that most money appropriated in one year is not spent until the following year, the impact of any cuts in the fiscal 1989 budget would not be felt until 1990.

Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending, said he was not reassured by the officials' testimony.

The Iowa Democrat criticized both the proposed 1989 cut and the President's proposed 1990 budget, which would provide the same total amount for existing programs as in 1989 and add $441 million for new initiatives. (See related story on this page.)

"How can we become the education Congress and President Bush become the education President if Congress accepts these proposals?" Mr. Harkin asked. "How is this budget consistent with the President's expressed priorities?"

"We're going to have to ask everyone to do a better job with their resources," Mr. Cavazos responded. "As much as I agree with you 100 percent that we have to fund these areas and help them out, the resources are not there."--jm

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