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Senate Panel Ties Strings to Bush's Education Plan

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Washington--A Senate committee has approved legislation that includes most of the education package proposed by President Bush in April--with strings and Congressional initiatives attached.

"We are pleased that S 695 contains many elements of the President's education initiatives, but there are a number of areas which remain problematic, and we will be working to improve those areas by the time the bill is considered by the full Senate after Labor Day," Undersecretary of Education Ted Sanders said through a spokesman.

"We will endeavor to include more of the President's proposals, as well as to make the ones that are already included more closely resemble what he proposed," Mr. Sanders said.

The senators scaled down the pricetags on several of Mr. Bush's proposals and made funding for Presidential Merit Schools and a new magnet-schools program contingent on increased funding for existing programs.

They also added provisions that would attack student-loan defaults, expand eligibility for student aid, authorize a $25-million program to support training efforts for middle-school teachers, and extend a dropout-prevention program and a student competition testing knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Sanders said the Administration's most serious objection is to a provision that would authorize $25 million in federal funding for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. His spokesman did not respond to a query as to whether the provision could draw a veto threat.

Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, ranking Republican on the Senate education subcommittee, said she also opposed public funding for the board and would propose a "compromise" when S 695 reached the Senate floor. (See related story, page 26.)

The Senate is expected to approve the bill, but its fate in the House is uncertain.

Hawkins 'Not Interested'

The House Education and Labor Committee scheduled a hearing this week on the Bush proposals. But Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who chairs the panel, has repeatedly criticized the Bush package, and his top education aide said he scheduled the hearing "out of courtesy."

One committee aide speculated that "political pressure may build to do something" after the Senate acts, but most agree that the package faces an uphill battle in the House.

"It's clear the chairman is not interested in Bush's education initiatives, and the default initiative and the other items are not anything our committee is that interested in taking up," said a Republican aide. "We've been avoiding the Senate's default package for two years now."

Merit-Schools Restrictions

The largest component of Mr. Bush's education package, the Presidential Merit Schools program, is designed to reward schools that have demonstrated excellence and improvement. The original proposal called for an initial authorization level of $250 million, gradually rising to $500 million.

The Senate bill restricts awards to schools eligible for Chapter 1 compensatory-education aid and authorizes $200 million--contingent on a $5.09-billion appropriation for Chapter 1 and $200 million for the secondary-school basic-skills program enacted last year. Thereafter, each dollar for merit schools would have to be matched by a dollar for Chapter 1.

The various components of Chapter 1 received a total of $4.57 billion in 1989. The Administration requested $4.72 billion for 1990, but legislation approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee would provide $5.57 billion. (See related story, this page.)

The secondary-school program, conceived as an extension of Chapter 1 to older disadvantaged students, was not funded in 1989 and was not included in the Administration's budget for 1990 or in the House appropriations bill.

Other Strings Attached

In similar fashion, authorization for $50 million to encourage open-enrollment plans--cut from a proposed $100 million--would be contingent on full funding of two related programs.

The primary magnet-schools program, authorized at $165 million but funded at $113.6 million in 1989, is available only to districts carrying out desegregation plans approved by the Education Department.

An attempt last year, backed by the Administration, to establish similar support for open-enrollment plans launched for other purposes resulted in a compromise called Alternative Curriculum Schools.

It requires no formal desegregation plan, but applicant districts must establish that the proposed plan would further desegregation and that the schools would have a minimum percentage of minority students. It also cannot be funded unless the original magnet-schools program is fully funded.

The Bush proposal, which would aid open-enrollment experiments without regard to desegregation, could be funded under the Senate bill only if both existing programs were fully funded. Thereafter, a dollar for the new program would be contingent on a dollar for each of the others.

Other Components of Package

Other elements of the package include:

A program of grants to states interested in establishing alternative certification routes for teachers and principals. It would be authorized at $15 million; Mr. Bush had proposed $25 million.

Science scholarships for outstanding high-school students. One male and one female from each Congressional district would be awarded $5,000 for each year of undergraduate work. The program would be administered by the Education Department "in cooperation with" the National Science Foundation, and disadvantaged and minority students would have priority.

Mr. Bush had proposed allowing each Senator and Representative to choose a scholar, with 30 slots filled by the President, and awards could have been as much as $10,000 a year.

Anti-drug "emergency grants." The President had proposed a separate, $25-million authorization. S 695 would raise the authorization level of the existing drug-free schools program by the same amount and require that one third of the money allotted to states be awarded to school districts in urban or rural areas with severe drug problems.

Endowment grants to historically black colleges and universities, authorized at $20 million.

An aide to the Senate education subcommittee said a Bush proposal for awards for outstanding teachers was excluded because the panel planned to consider it later in the session as part of a bill focusing on the teaching profession.

Most of the student-aid provisions added to S 695 were included in the loan-default bill passed by the Senate in March. (See Education Week, March 29, 1989.)

A new provision would exempt from student-aid need analysis the value of family homes, farms, and small businesses for families earning less than $30,000, making many more students eligible for federal aid.

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