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Federal File: A lower key; No free lunch

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Although officials of the Children's Defense Fund have toned down their rhetoric, they continue to blame the House Ways and Means Committee for the demise of child-care legislation last year.

In a fiery memorandum that raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill last fall, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the cdf, said Representatives Thomas J. Downey of New York and George Miller of California deserved "full blame" for delaying child-care legislation.

The two wanted to substitute tax credits and an increase in block-grant funds for a broader package of grants and subsidies backed by House and Senate education panels.

At a briefing last week, c.d.f. officials maintained that Ways and Means' insistence on "total jurisdiction" over child care and its refusal to compromise had derailed the bill.

But Ms. Edelman's tone was markedly softer.

"We're deeply sorry that at the last minute we ran into a problem with Representative Downey," she said.

Neither she nor other c.d.f. officials even mentioned Mr. Miller, although they said, when asked, that they were "disappointed" by his actions.

House leaders, c.d.f. officials said, have pledged to offer a compromise bill soon.

Whatever plan emerges, they said, is likely to allow funding of religiously-oriented child care, leaving the courts to decide whether such an appropriation is Constitutional.


Bilingual educators arrived at a recent Education Department conference on personnel needs believing that they were to be treated to a luncheon featuring a speech by Undersecretary of Education Ted Sanders.

But Rita Esquivel, director of the office of bilingual education and minority-language affairs, delivered some bad news: Where the federal government is involved, there are no free lunches.

The lunch was to be sponsored by the Xerox Corporation, an arrangement Ms. Esquivel said she had worked out because the government cannot pay for food.

But she later learned that a government agency cannot accept such gifts from a company with which it does business.

"I didn't know the rules; it was my naivete showing through," Ms. Esquivel said last week.

Ms. Esquivel came to obemla from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California, where she coordinated federal programs--and also served as a fundraiser, she noted last week.

"When you come from a school district, you're used to asking everybody for money," she said.--dc & jm

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