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Education Funds Spared In Congress's Drug Fight

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Washington--Education funding probably will not be cut in order to pay for programs included in the national strategy to fight drugs, Congressional aides said last week.

A bill passed by the Senate last month would have required total reductions of 0.43 percent in spending for all nonentitlement programs, including those of the Education Department, to fund President Bush's drug plan.

Most of the Senate's reductions would have come in the form of across-the-board cuts in all such programs.

But Senate negotiators appear ready to accept a House demand that all cuts be made at the discretion of the appropriations subcommittees, the aides said. None of the reductions, they predicted, would come out of education programs.

Moreover, drug-education programs would still receive an additional $183.5 million under the tentative agreement, the aides said.

Arguments between the chambers over how to pay for the anti-drug campaign began last month, after the Senate passed a $9.4-billion drug plan as part of a transportation-spending bill. That amount represented an increase of more than $1 billion above the amount requested by the President.

To raise the additional money, the Senate agreed to an across-the-board cut of 0.3 percent for all programs. Only entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Guaranteed Student Loans, would have been spared.

The Senate measure also would have required appropriations subcommittees to slice an additional 0.13 percent through any combination of across-the-board cuts and targeted reductions in specific programs.

School Plans Required

The same measure also included a variety of anti-drug provisions, including a requirement that schools, as a prerequisite for receiving federal funds, certify to state education officials that they have implemented a program to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol by students and employees on school grounds or at school-sponsored activities. It also included the additional $183.5 million for drug-education efforts.

The House transportation appropriations bill, which was adopted in August, contains no provisions relating to the national drug strategy. The House voted this month to instruct its conferees to accept the school-related drug provisions in the Senate's transportation bill.

But influential House members--including William H. Natcher, chairman of the education appropriations subcommittee--have come out against the proposed across-the-board cuts. They have also said they want to consider anti-drug legislation as part of a separate bill outside the appropriations process.

In response to the House's objections, the Senate this month passed another bill that contains drug provisions identical to those included in the transportation bill.

Aides said that members have not reached an agreement on the fate of these anti-drug provisions.

But there has been an accord, they noted, on the funding mechanism for anti-drug efforts.

Under the proposed compromise--which has yet to be formally approved by the conference committee on the transportation bill--each subcommittee would be able to decide on how to cut 0.43 percent of its discretionary allocation, the aides said.

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