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Federal File: In the dark on Head Start; The Republican share: An unlikely ally; Freelancing

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The Bush Administration's decision to seek a $500-million increase for Head Start was apparently a well-kept secret--even inside the Health and Human Services Department, which runs the program.

To ensure news coverage, Mr. Bush disclosed the proposal on Jan. 26, three days before he submitted his 1991 budget.

On Jan. 25, h.h.s. budget documents prepared for a Jan. 29 news conference were circulating on Capitol Hill--showing a $1.442-billion request for the preschool program, not the $1.886-request highly touted by the Administration.

According to a Democratic budget aide, staff members in h.h.s. Secretary Louis W. Sullivan's office, which prepared the documents, said they did not know about the higher Head Start request until the announcement Jan. 26.

The aide said it was assumed on Capitol Hill that the change was made at the last minute, for political reasons.

"I hate to see them taking so much credit for this when it was a last-minute decision," the aide said.

But Sylvia Wise, chief of budget analysis for the office of human-development services, which oversees Head Start, said the decision must have been made at least three weeks before it was announced.

She noted that the higher number was included in the governmentwide budget document distributed by the Office of Management and Budget, which she said was printed that far in advance.

"Those of us who were working on the [budget] found out about it" the day of the announcement, Ms. Wise said, adding that some h.h.s. budget officials knew earlier.

Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee last week tried to increase their share of the panel's operations budget.

While Republicans make up 38 percent of the panel's membership, they have generally received about 21 percent of its funds.

Representative Steve Bartlett of Texas proposed a guarantee of 25 percent for 1990, rising to 33 percent next year.

While carefully conceding that the panel's majority had been fair to its g.o.p. members, he said the House Administration Committee had recommended such guarantees in a report.

Representative Austin J. Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania, noted that the Republican Administration wasn't giving his party any executive-branch funds and that committee Republicans left $100,000 unspent last year.

"You would have money left, too, if you didn't have that cornerful,'' retorted Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the panel's ranking Republican, gesturing at a ceiling-high stack of boxes in the back of the committee room.

One box was marked "testimony," but most appeared to contain computer equipment.

Representative William D. Ford, a Michigan Democrat, suggested that his party's members could get into trouble with their leadership by setting the precedent sought by Mr. Bartlett.

Representative Augustus F. Hawkins of California, the panel's chairman, said nothing, but simply called for a vote.

The motion was defeated 21 to 11, strictly along party lines.

Unable to dissuade New York State officials from expanding eligibility for bilingual-education programs, advocates of declaring English the official language have taken their case to Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos.

Rule changes recently accepted by the state's Board of Regents expand the definition of a limited-English-proficient student to allow bilingual education for many children who previously had scored too well on English-competency tests. The revisions are expected to add about 33,000 pupils to the 100,000 now enrolled, at an annual cost of some $10.5 million.

U.S. English, a group that seeks to have English designated the nation's official language, argues that the changes will undermine efforts to ensure that students learn English. It says they will eliminate English proficiency as a graduation requirement and weaken teacher standards in an attempt to recruit more bilingual teachers.

The group last month delivered 30,000 petitions to Mr. Cavazos asking that he prevent federal funds from being used in ways that hinder children from learning English.

Their reception appears uncertain, given that Mr. Cavazos, unlike his predecessor, William J. Bennett, is a strong supporter of bilingual education.

The January nassp Bulletin contains an article by an unusual author--Secretary of State James A. Baker 3rd.

In the magazine, which is published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Mr. Baker cites education as a crucial tool for maintaining international competitiveness and solving global problems.

--jm & ps

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