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Vocational-Education Column

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Private-industry council officials meeting last week in Washington learned from leading lawmakers that the Congress has yet to seriously consider the job-training reforms described earlier this year by the Bush Administration. Under the proposed revisions, local Job Training Partnership Act governing councils would also be responsible for coordinating vocational-education programs.

"We've got to see what's in it first,'' said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Democrat from Massachusetts who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. "We need to see the fine print.''

Representative Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the House Human Resources Subcommittee, offered a similarly skeptical view.

"I don't think PICS want to administer vocational education, and I don't think you're going to get to do it, so don't get your hopes up,'' Mr. Gunderson told representatives of the National Association of Private Industry Councils.

Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin said, however, that President Bush continues to support the scheme and will make efforts to change the minds of Mr. Gunderson and others on Capitol Hill, even though the Administration's program is not yet ready to be introduced.

"It is still a work in progress,'' she said.

Ms. Martin cautioned, however, that the Administration would not soften its stance. "If you think the current system is working, then we should keep it, but that is false,'' she said. "I am not going to say that, just because we've got interest groups lined up against us, you don't propose it.''

In the meantime, Ms. Martin said she hoped Mr. Kennedy's appearance signaled that the Senate committee is prepared to mark up its version of amendments to the J.T.P.A. While deliberations on the bill have been delayed twice in recent weeks, Mr. Kennedy assured the J.T.P.A. assembly that the bill will be considered this month.

On May 6, educators can participate in a 90-minute teleconference on vocational education's role in larger school-restructuring efforts. The video program, sponsored by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, will be free.

The program will feature school administrators from Newark, Del.; Salem, Ore.; Louisville, Ky.; and Jackson, Miss. An hourlong discussion will focus on topics ranging from combining academic and vocational curricula to new assessment practices.

To obtain more information or to register for the afternoon program, contact Susan L. Faulkner, N.C.R.V.E., 231 Lane Hall, Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg, Va. 24061-0254; (703) 231-8721.--L.H.

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