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As House and Senate conferees prepared to begin hammering out a compromise between their differing higher-education bills, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said last week that President Bush is likely to veto the resulting legislation if significant changes are not made.

"The President is committed to signing a higher-education bill only if it is a material improvement over current law,'' Secretary Alexander said in a letter to key lawmakers.

Mr. Alexander said the President especially objects to a provision contained in the House bill, HR 3553, that would create a demonstration direct-loan program.

The Senate bill, S 1150, does not include such a provision, but influential senators have expressed a willingness to explore the issue.

In his letter, Mr. Alexander said Mr. Bush would veto a bill that includes any direct-loan program. In the past, he has said only that the Administration would object to a large direct-loan program.

Mr. Alexander also called on the Congress to rethink its proposed funding levels for Pell Grants and the expansion of eligibility for that program and for guaranteed student loans to more middle-income students.

The Administration would prefer to increase aid to the neediest students.

The Secretary said that "among the most objectionable'' aspects of either bill is a House plan to allow all students, even those from wealthy families, to obtain guaranteed loans that are not federally subsidized.

Among other issues he raised, Mr. Alexander said he hoped conferees would accept a provision of S 1150 that would create teacher and school-leader academies, as the Administration proposed, and called on the House to drop its plan to create a $400-million formula grant to states for teacher training.

Two separate House-Senate conference committees continued meeting last week on a budget blueprint for fiscal 1993 and legislation that would cut funding for the current year, fiscal 1992. Both committees were poised to announce agreements late last week.

A $6-billion difference on defense spending is the major bone of contention between the two 1993 budget resolutions, which are not far apart on recommended spending levels for education, job training, and other social-service programs. (See Education Week, May 13, 1992.)

Meanwhile, a Senate aide said a second conference committee had reached agreement on proposed education cuts in the 1992 rescission bill, but details were not available.

The House rescission bill would slice $3 million from Education Department programs that are scheduled to receive "delayed obligations'' on Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

The Senate bill includes a rescission of $2 million that the Bush Administration sought to use for demonstration grants allowing high-school students to contract out with private employers for vocational education.

President Bush last week announced a new federal effort to ensure that children are fully vaccinated against common diseases by age 2.

Under the effort, the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development will work together to provide services to children in neighborhoods where many children are underimmunized.

The President said he has requested $349 million for vaccines in fiscal year 1993, up from the $298 million appropriated this fiscal year.

Health officials estimate that half of all inner-city children have not received the recommended series of vaccines by age 2.

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