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Federal File: Congressional oversight; Child abuse?; Cavazos

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When the Congress reauthorized the Higher Education Act in 1986, one provision of the bill created a National Commission on Responsibility for Financing Higher Education.

The commission's members have been named and the Congress has appropriated funds for it.

But there's a small problem. Lawmakers neglected to include language authorizing the panel to hire staff and spend money.

On the House floor last week, Representative Bill Goodling found irony in this predicament, noting that the actual provision of members and money is "contrary to the normal course of events for study commissions."

The House approved by voice vote S 1999, a bill that would provide the necessary operating authority. Further negotiation with the Senate is required, however, as House members struck other, unrelated provisions from the original bill passed by that chamber earlier this year.


Louis W. Sullivan, the secretary of health and human services, said last week that pregnant women who use drugs are child abusers, and that parental rights should be taken away from them and their male partners in some cases.

"Both parents created that life," Mr. Sullivan said in remarks at a conference at Tufts Medical School in Boston. "Both parents must be held accountable for its welfare."

Public-health experts who spoke at the conference reportedly disagreed strongly with the Secretary, arguing that the parents are also victims of drug abuse and that the policy he advocated would drive women underground and away from prenatal care.


Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos drew a hail of criticism in April for suggesting that parents are partly to blame for high dropout rates and low academic achievement among Hispanic students.

But he has not backed down from that statement. In fact, he made similar remarks last week in appearances in Los Angeles and Tuscon, Ariz.

In Tuscon, speaking at a youth convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mr. Cavazos exhorted Hispanics to extol the value of education to their children and "take charge of change in education."

"Hispanics made tremendous contributions to arts and literature during the Renaissance period," he said. "We must create our renaissance in education."--j.m.

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