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Migrant-Ed. Study Garners Generally Positive Reaction

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WASHINGTON--State directors of migrant education offered generally positive reactions last week to the recommendations contained in a national panel's three-year study of the federal education programs for the children of migrant farmworkers.

"I think it's fair,'' Raul de la Rosa, the state director of migrant education in Washington State, said at the press conference called to release the study, "Invisible Children: A Portrait of Migrant Education in the United States.''

"I think it has very excellent insights,'' he told reporters and members of the National Commission on Migrant Education.

Mr. de la Rosa said in an interview that he was pleased that many of the panel's recommendations had been revised from an earlier draft of the report and that he thought state directors would give the commission's suggestions serious consideration.

The panel proposed, among other recommendations, that federal migrant-education programs focus more on students whose parents are currently moving in search of agricultural work instead of those whose families used to do so. (See Education Week, Sept. 16, 1992.)

But William M. Smith, the coordinator of migrant education for the New Jersey Department of Education, said in an interview last week that he hoped Congress would not interpret the commission's advice to weight funding on currently migrant students--who generate fewer of the full-time equivalents on which federal allocations to states are based--as a signal that less funding is needed for the program.

"Funding needs to be increased,'' Mr. Smith said.

It is especially difficult, he noted, for states like New Jersey that receive migrant students during the summer months to stretch migrant-program dollars to cover all the services they need.

States that run migrant programs during the school year can often arrange bus transportation, for example, by piggybacking on regular school services. When school is out, Mr. Smith noted, transportation must be funded independently with migrant-education money.

Funding for migrant programs should be "a priority,'' the commission said. But the panel did not call for either an increase or a decrease in funding.

Interagency Council Urged

The commission also recommended that an executive order be issued to establish an interagency council to coordinate services provided by federal agencies to migrant farmworkers.

However, the president of the National Association of State Directors of Migrant Education, Thomas Lugo, said he did not think that such a step was a good idea. Instead, he said, he would prefer regulations or legislation to urge coordination.

An interagency council would be "another bureaucratic group'' that would drain funding from migrant children, a situation the commission warned against, Mr. Lugo, the state director for migrant education in California, said.

Over all, though, Mr. Lugo said he found many of the commission's conclusions "well founded.''

At last week's press conference, Linda Chavez, the commission's chairwoman, noted that the commission completed its work for less than its $2 million budget and will return $130,000 to the U.S. Treasury.

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