Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole has announced plans to take "immediate action to step up enforcement" of child-labor laws and assess larger penalties for violations.
"Our fines must exact a price or there will be no deterrence," Ms. Dole said in a statement.
The Labor Department plans to assess fines for separate violations involving the same child and increase fines on repeat offenders and employers that keep inadequate work records.
Federal law, which is intended both to keep children in school and to prevent their exploitation, prohibits most paid work for children under age 14 and limits the number of working hours for those under age 16.
The department last year found a record number of children--22,508--working illegally.
Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos last week selected a Dallas high-school principal to be his first special adviser for dropout prevention.
Richard Marquez, who began his career as a teacher, has been principal of Sunset High School since 1985 and has also served in administrative posts in three other Dallas schools.
According to the Education Department, Mr. Marquez reduced Sunset High's dropout rate by a third and increased by 600 percent the number of students in advanced-placement courses.
Mr. Marquez is a former dropout who earned an equivalency diploma while serving in the Army.
He will advise the Secretary on dropout initiatives and work with parent groups, state and local officials, Congressional staffs, and researchers "to develop methods for keeping at-risk children in school," according to the department.
Students should be required to take science and mathematics courses throughout high school, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation has urged.
Citing U.S. students' poor performance on international tests, the National Science Board concluded in a biennial statement that education "is a national problem that has not yet been effectively addressed."
The poor state of science and mathematics education, it said, is a major weakness in the effort to improve the nation's standing in the fields of science and technology.
The panel also argued that the nation should pay teachers "what they are worth" in order to attract highly qualified people to the profession.
Budget constraints will prevent the Education Department this year from reprinting a popular guide to student-aid programs, officials said last week.
"The Student Guide," an 82-page book that details federal aid programs, received an award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators last year. The department printed nearly 8 million copies in 1989, and had requests for a million more.
But Roberta Dunn, the deputy assistant secretary for student financial assistance, said the department's office of postsecondary education had unexpectedly high printing costs last year.