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Senate Backs $3.1-Billion Increase for Education

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Washington--The Senate last week approved a $1.59-trillion budget resolution for fiscal 1992 that includes a recommended increase of $3.1 billion for Education Department programs.

The resolution calls for a total rise in spending on education, youth, and health programs, including Head Start and child-nutrition programs, of $4.4 billion.

The Senate approved the resolution by a voice vote. The annual budget measure is a spending blueprint that guides the appropriations committees when they begin to allocate specific amounts to programs.

The resolution now goes to a conference committee to resolve differences between House and Senate versions.

The House resolution, passed two weeks ago, is not much different from the Senate resolution, largely because of budget rules established by the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, which set spending caps on domestic, defense, and international spending.

The two measures do vary substantially on education spending, however, since the House resolution recommends an increase of only $2.4 billion.

The House Budget Committee had called for a spending increase of $2 billion. That amount was raised by $400 million under an amendment adopted on the House floor.

Sponsored by Representative William D. Ford, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, the amendment was approved on a 261-to-158 vote.

In his fiscal 1992 budget, President Bush requested a total of $29.6 billion for the Education Department. That amounts represents a $775-million increase in spending over the current year, with $690 million earmarked for new Administration initiatives.

Meanwhile, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, outlined his criticisms of Administration spending policies for Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander at a hearing last week.

Mr. Harkin focused on provisions dealing with the health and education of preschool-age children, even though most of those programs are not managed by the Education Department.

Mr. Harkin called for an interagency task force to study early-intervention programs.

"What are we going to do to get people thinking of education as starting at birth?" he asked Mr. Alexander.

Mr. Alexander replied that a limited amount of money was available in the budget, and that fully funding a program such as Head Start, which would cost about $7.6 billion, would not be effective until the beneficiaries felt comfortable with the program.

Mr. Harkin also asked the Secretary to submit a budget excluding education initiatives that have not been authorized. Mr. Alexander said he would like to wait to see if legislation authorizing the programs is passed by the time the panel marks up an appropriations bill in July.

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