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E.D. Shifts Research Grants To Fund Bush Strategy

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Washington--The Education Department announced last week that it was canceling the competition for two research awards and was "redirecting" the funds for the programs to help implement President Bush's education strategy.

The two programs are a $9.7-million effort to award grants for innovative education projects and a $990,000 grant to operate a proposed new research center on the dissemination of research. The department had been scheduled to is sue the awards for both programs by September.

In an announcement in the May 2 Federal Register, Bruno V. Manno, acting assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, said the department would instead use the $10.7 million to fund "high priority research, development, dissemination, and training activities" to support the President's "America 2000" education strategy.

That strategy, announced last month, calls for, among other proposals, national standards for student performance, a national assessment system to measure performance, and a major corporate-funded research-and-development effort to assist in the creation of a "new generation of American schools." (See related stories, page 1.)

Some observers said last week that the department's move came as no surprise, since the two canceled projects had been associated with the former assistant secretary for research, Christopher T. Cross.,

But others suggested that it represented a dangerous precedent that could portend future attempts to withhold funding from Congressionally mandated projects in favor of Administration priorities.

Representative Major R. Owens, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Subcommittee on Select Education, scheduled an emergency hearing on the issue for this week.

"We're very concerned," said Laurence Peters, an aide to Mr. Owens. "There is no information yet on how they will spend the money or what they will spend it on.''

"There had been no consultation with Congress, as far as I know, before the announcement," Mr. Peters said.

Mr. Manno was unavailable for L comment last week, but department officials said the shifting of funds did not require approval of the Congress.

The officials also said a notice L would be published in the Federal Register this week outlining prioriH ties for new competitions for the use of the funds.

Earlier Center Competition

The two canceled grant competi tions, announced in March, were new programs aimed at generating ideas about effective schooling and spreading research findings.

The Fund for Innovation in Edu cation: Innovation in Education Pro gram would have provided grants of $200,000 to $750,000 to schools, lo cal and state education agencies, universities, and other organizations to develop comprehensive projects to restructure schools.

The projects were expected to fo cus on new curricula, teacher devel opment, and school organization.

The proposed Center for Research on Dissemination and Knowledge L Utilization, a top priority of Mr. Cross's, was aimed at ensuring that more of what is known about effective practice would reach the hands of policymakers and practitioners.

It was expected to disseminate re search findings itself, conduct reL search on effective methods of dis semination, and study ways to narrow the gap between research and practice.

The grant competition was the second the department held for the proposed center; officials rejected as inadequate all the proposals submit ted in the first round. (See Education Week, March 20, 1991.)

'Waiting for the Second Shoe'.

Willis D. Hawley, director of the center for education policy at Vanderbilt University, who was preparing to submit a bid to operate the research center, said he was "disap pointed" by the decision to cancel the competition.

"One of the more persistent criticisms of education research is that it doesn't get into the hands of policymakers and practitioners,'' he said.

But Mr. Hawley added that the large research-and-development component of President Bush's plan would help accomplish that mission.

"If I were sitting in Washington now, I'd do the same thing," Mr. L Hawley said. Gerald E. Sroufe, director of governmental and professional liaison for the American Educational Research Association, said the cancel lation of the grant programs, particularly the proposed research center, came as little surprise.

"That really was Cross's signature piece," Mr. Sroufe said. "He more than anyone else thought it was a good idea."

Mr. Sroufe added that the research office offers more flexibility than other agencies within the Education Department to shift funds to discretionary programs.

But Mr. Peters of the Subcommit tee on Select Education said the panel was concerned that the department's actions might signal an intention to ignore the will of the Congress.

Mr. Sroufe said he would wait and see what the agency plans to do with the funds.

"We're waiting for the second shoe," he said. "It was clear this shoe would drop."

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