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Federal officials have agreed to reconsider the cases of more than 400,000 poor children who have been denied Supplemental Security Income benefits since 1980 to determine whether they qualify for aid under new program guidelines

The agreement, approved by federal judge earlier this month, resolves one of the last remaining issues arising from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the program last year. The Court struck down regulations for the program that made it harder for children to receive disability benefits than for adults. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

The Social Security Administration published new rules for the program in December.

But the federal government and the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case had still disagreed over how far back the agency must go in reviewing previous denials. The lawyers had asked the agency to review all denials made to children since 1974.

A dozen higher-education associations last week presented the Congress with their proposal for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, including increases in the maximum awards for Pell Grants and in the limits on Stafford Student Loans '

The groups also backed the idea that the federal government directly loan such awards to students, and called for an increase in annual borrowing capacity to $3,500 for freshmen and $5,000 for other undergraduates.

Hoke L. Smith, president of Towson State University, offered the proposal at a hearing before the Senate Education, Arts, and Humanities subcommittee.

Charging that the Education Department's research arm has been plagued by "partisan bickering" over the past decade,Representative Major R. Owens said last week that he would soon introduce legislation to create an independent board to set policy for the research office.

"The first step in research and development is to create a nonpartisan structure," the New York Democrat,chairman of the House Subcommittee on Select Education, said at a legislative conference of the Council of the Great City Schools.

The proposed board--which would be composed of school-board members, teachers, principals, businesspeople, and researchers--would set priorities for research funding and evaluate programs, Mr. Owens said

Mr. Owens, whose subcommittee is charged this year with reauthorizing the office of educational research and improvement, added that the legislation would also call for an "education-extension program," modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture's extension program, to help disseminate new knowledge.

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