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As debate over the reauthorization of federal vocational-education programs began in the Senate last month, groups representing state education agencies were lobbying to preserve a strong state role they say is threatened in the House version of the bill.

The House bill, HR 7, would allow 80 percent of funds from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act to flow directly to local school districts using a formula that is based on a district's number of Chapter 1 students, number of handicapped students, and overall enrollment.

Of the remaining 20 percent of funds, 10 percent would be set aside for programs for displaced homemakers and sex-equity efforts, and 10 percent would go for state administration and special programs.

Currently, 43 percent of Perkins funds are designated for "program improvement" programs that are state-administered; 57 percent of the funds are designated to serve special populations.

Moody Oswald, director of vocational education in South Carolina, told a Senate panel that the result of the House bill would be a severe reduction in funding available at the state level to provide "such services as curriculum development, technical assistance, teacher training, research, and personnel development."

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos told lawmakers he agreed that a strong state role should be preserved, saying a diminished role is among the "serious concerns" the Administration has about HR 7.

But the Council of the Great City Schools, which reportedly lobbied hard for the House formula, suggested to the Senate that as much as 95 percent of Perkins funds should flow directly to local school districts.

The Senate has concluded its series of hearings on the reauthorization and is expected to hold a mark-up this fall.

The Education Department has significantly altered regulations for a special grant competition aimed at schools undertaking to educate recent immigrants.

Bilingual-education advocates had complained that the original rules eliminated the districts most in need of funds and represented a veiled attempt to funnel more money to programs that teach children only in English.

The special competition, for which the department has allotted $2 million, is limited to districts seeking to serve pupils not previously served by federally funded bilingual programs.

But the department has removed a requirement that applicants not have previously provided services to the native-language group they propose to serve with the new funds.

The final regulations allow districts "heavily affected" by recent immigration to apply for funds to aid a previously served language group, but specify that the children to be served must have arrived in the districts within the last two years.

Applications for grants will be accepted until Aug. 7.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has passed amendments to the Job Training Partnership Act that would expand summer youth programs into year-round activities.

Sponsored by Senator Paul Simon, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the employment and productivity subcommittee, S 543 also targets more aid to disadvantaged youths and adults, and calls for more coordination of job-training, vocational-education, and welfare programs.

The bill would also change the 8 percent set-aside for education programs. Currently, 8 percent of the youth funding is allocated to educational activities; under the new provision, 5 percent of all funding in both the youth and the adult components of the program would be designated for coordinating educational activities.

Also under the provision, labor unions and community-based organizations would gain increased representation on private-industry councils that run local j.t.p.a. programs.

The House is expected to mark up its version of the bill after the August recess.

A lawsuit seeking to force the Commerce Department to adjust the 1990 census to compensate for undercounting of minorities has been settled.

Under an agreement last month, the department will establish an independent panel of experts to determine whether such adjustments are warranted.

The suit was filed last November by the states of New York and California and the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. They charged that the census as currently designed does not fully count minority populations.

The census count is often used in funding formulas for federal education grants, including Chapter 1 grants.

While some statisticians at the Census Bureau said a method to correct for undercounting had been devised, the Commerce Department, the bureau's parent agency, decided not to employ those methods, spurring the states and cities to file the suit.

A new General Accounting Office study suggests that regular day-care programs can be upgraded into substantial early-childhood-education programs at a relatively low cost, according to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The gao's initial estimates, scheduled to be released this week, show that high-quality programs cost about $4,000 per child a year. Licensed child care in selected major cities already averages $3,700 a year, Mr. Kennedy noted.

The Massachusetts Democrat ordered the study to help guide debate on his "smart start" bill, which would offer grants for states to provide programs for 4-year olds.

The g.a.o. data, based on a survey of programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, also showed that teachers in early childhood programs earned only about two-thirds of the pay of elementary-school teachers with similar qualifications.

The preliminary data are based on a sample of n.a.e.y.c.-accredited programs surveyed by the Congressional watchdog agency, which will release a more comprehensive report later this year.

Three new Education Department officials and one holdover from the Reagan Administration have won Senate confirmation.

Edward Stringer, the department's new general counsel, was approved last week.

Robert Davila and Nell Carney were sworn in last month as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services and commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, respectively.

Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, also has gained Senate approval; he was originally appointed in the waning days of the Reagan Administration.

None of the nominations was controversial.

Another Reagan Administration holdover, Michelle Easton, deputy undersecretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, has been nominated to retain her post and is awaiting Senate action.

Robert K. Goodwin was to begin work this week as head of the Bush Administration's effort to strengthen historically black colleges and universities.

Mr. Goodwin has been an official of the Texas A&M University System and Prairie View (Tex.) A&M, a historically black college. He was appointed last month by Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos as director of the "White House hbcu Initiative."

President Bush signed an executive order in April reemphasizing the federal commitment to traditionally black colleges. As director of the initiative, Mr. Goodwin will seek to increase opportunities for the schools to participate in federal programs, as well as encourage private support.

President Bush has announced his intention to name John E. Frohnmayer as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

A lawyer, Mr. Frohnmayer is a former chairman of the Oregon Arts Commission.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Frohnmayer would succeed Frank Hodsoll, who left the endowment to become executive associate director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has appointed Edward F. Argenbright to supervise the department's 10 regional offices, officials announced last week.

Mr. Argenbright was Montana's superintendent of public instruction from 1981 to 1988.

Although the department's announcement said the post he has been appointed to is a new position, the department actually had a regional liaison until 1985. Robert J. Billings, a former head of the Moral Majority, resigned from the job shortly after William J. Bennett took over as Secretary of Education, and it was not filled.

School districts on or near 91 military bases scheduled to be closed or scaled down will not see reductions in 1990 impact-aid payments, the Education Department has told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Because pupil counts for fiscal 1990 payments will occur before any of the bases are actually closed, districts are not likely to see reduced federal support until fiscal 1991, the department said.

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has outlined the Education Department's drug-education efforts at the second in a series of oversight hearings on federal efforts to end drug abuse.

Appearing before the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, Mr. Cavazos said his agency was developing a model drug-prevention curriculum, to be released early next year. Other efforts, he said, will include a drug-use-prevention handbook for parents and public-service announcements in Spanish and English.

John Ward Studebaker, a former U.S. Commissioner of Education, died July 26 in Walnut Creek, Calif. He was 102 years old.

Mr. Studebaker headed the precursor to the Education Department from 1934 to 1948, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman.

He then became vice president and chairman of the editorial board of Scholastic Magazines Inc., a position he held for 20 years, retiring in 1968.

Early in his career, he served as a principal and superintendent in Des Moines.

The Education Department has been barred from requiring that its 88 data processors submit to random drug tests, but may proceed with "reasonable suspicion" drug tests for all employees, under a ruling last week by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said the department may require random drug tests of motor-vehicle operators, law-enforcement personnel, and employees with access to top-secret documents. But, she said, ed had not shown that a "compelling" interest served by such tests would justify infringing the computer workers' Fourth Amendment right to privacy.

The department had proposed random tests for 200 employees in "sensitive" posts.

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