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Federal File: Killer pork; A virtue of necessity

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The Taft Institute, a small federal program that organizes seminars on government for precollegiate teachers, was revived by the Congress late last month after a two year hiatus in funding.

But the future of two seminar programs for high-school students was cast into doubt when the Senate failed to reauthorize them. The bill apparently lost its momentum after it was loaded with "pork barrel" projects--the same fate that befell the Taft program in 1988.

The teachers' institute bill, passed by the House on Oct. 22 and by the Senate five days later, will provide the program with $700,000 in fiscal 1991 and gradually declining amounts over the next three years.

Two years ago, however, a similar bill died after members of a House-Senate conference panel loaded it with almost $60 million in pet projects for their districts.

Last year, a bill authorizing $500,000 a year for three years for the Washington Workshops Foundation, which brings high-school students to the nation's capital for seminars, was passed routinely by the House.

When the bill reached the Senate this year, the funding ceiling was doubled to give an equal amount to Close-Up, another student seminar program.

The bill was also loaded down with $25 million for unrelated projects, including $2.2 million for the University of Mississippi's law library, an item that had been stuffed in the Taft pork barrel in 1988.

Also included were $5 million for a University of Rhode Island center on coastal ecosystems, and $3 million to create a National Teacher Hall of Fame at Emporia State University in Kansas.

Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island and Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas are the chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, of the education subcommittee that reported the bill.

The government's end-of-the-year fiscal crunch gave an Education Department employee a novel idea for promoting a new report.

The cover letter sent to reporters announced that "A College Course Map," which compiles statistics on what courses are taken by college students, had been published, but "nobody has it."

"There are 5,500 copies of the book sitting in a warehouse," the letter said. "But until we have a budget, there is no money to pay the mailing contractor."

This, the letter noted enticingly, means that reporters are being given data temporarily unavailable to the public. The publicity-hungry writer even suggested which pages to read.--J.M.

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