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Conferees Increase Preschool and 'Latchkey' Funds

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Washington--House and Senate conferees working out a final budget agreement last week made some adjustments in a child-care measure included in the legislation to direct more funds to early-childhood-education and "latchkey" programs.

An earlier version of the child-care bill approved by the House would have established a $530-million program to finance school-based preschool and before- and after-school programs. But a version agreed on this month by Senate leaders and the White House, which was expected to be included in the budget bill, substantially watered down schools' role. (See Education Week, Oct. 24, 1990.)

The White House-Senate move drew criticism from some education groups and from Representative Augustus F. Hawkins of California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Although the separate program called for in the House bill, HR 3, is not likely to be restored, Mr. Hawkins gained ground last week when the budget conferees agreed to a shift in the amount of funds set aside for preschool and latchkey programs.

The White House-Senate agreement initially would have required that 10 percent--or $75 million--of the funds reserved for "quality improvement" efforts in fiscal 1991 go toward such programs.

The conferees had agreed as of last week to boost that allotment to 75 percent, or $141 million. As in the agreement, an additional 5 percent of the "quality" set-aside would be available for either offering such programs or bolstering other child-care efforts.

Child-care advocates noted that other providers besides schools could compete for the funds.

The House and Senate tax-writing panels, meanwhile, were working to resolve differences in the tax-credit provisions of the child-care legislation.

In a related development designed to encourage Head Start providers to help fill the child-care gap, the Congress has passed a resolution making it clear to grantees that they can use federal funds to provide full-day, full-year services.

The measure, H Con Res 381, was to be added to HR 4151, a bill reauthorizing Head Start and other human-services programs.

A measure authorizing additional funds to expand Head Start--which H Con Res 381 does not do--was contained in earlier versions of the child- care bill, but was dropped from the White House-Senate agreement.

Although current law does not prohibit Head Start grantees from offering full-day, full-year programs, only a small percentage now do so.--dc

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