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State and Local Groups Face Off in Lobbying Over Voc.-Ed. Measure

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By Reagan Walker

Washington--Vocational-education groups are rolling out the heavy artillery this month in an effort to influence the Senate reauthorization of federal programs in their field.

Battle lines were drawn in the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act when the House last spring passed a bill that would funnel the bulk of the funding directly to local school districts. Some $911 million has been appropriated for fiscal year 1989.

The bill pits local and state groups against each other as they lobby to shape the Senate bill.

'Very Concerned'

Many state groups view the Senate version, which will be drafted this month, as their chance to tip the balance of control back in their direction.

Madeleine B. Hemmings, execu4tive director of the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Education, said her group was "very concerned" about the disposition of funds in the House bill.

"We hope for a stronger state role in the Senate bill and for distribution of funds to the local level in such a way that there will be accountability," Ms. Hemmings said last week.

The state directors have been working with several other state, minority, and community-based groups to develop a strategy for influencing the Senate bill, Ms. Hemmings said.

The group also has retained the Washington law firm of Baker & Hostetler to assist in lobbying for the bill. A strategy meeting at the firm was scheduled for this week.

Ann S. Young, an aide to the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and the Humanities, said she expected lobbying efforts to escalate over the next two weeks. The panel is hoping to hold a markup session on the bill by the end of this month.

"I can confidently say that every party that has an interest in this bill will be putting on a full-court press," Ms. Young said.

May Not Follow House Path

Ms. Young added that the subcommittee was "very anxious to grapple with a couple of problems" in the existing law, but that the Senate bill would not necessarily follow the path set by the House legislation.

The current law allocates 43 percent of Perkins funds to state-administered "program-improvement" efforts, and 57 percent to programs that serve special populations such as the handicapped and the disadvantaged.

The House bill, HR 7, would eliminate set-asides for special populations and allow 80 percent of Perkins funds to flow directly to local districts on the basis of their overall enrollments and numbers of handicapped and Chapter 1 students.

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

Besides spurring state groups to fight to preserve their role in federal vocational-education programs, the House formula prompted a coalition of 26 organizations representing special populations to write the Senate expressing their reservations about eliminating set-asides completely.

The House formula was a response to findings by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, that federal vocational-education funds had failed to reach many schools with disadvantaged students.

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