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Standards and Aid Bills Seen as Top Clinton Priorities

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WASHINGTON--President-elect Bill Clinton may seek quick action on legislation dealing with national education standards and his proposed student-aid program, aides said last week.

As the transition effort continued to take shape, however, participants said the Clinton agenda will not be set for some time.

"The list of early initiatives has been broadened and narrowed, broadened and narrowed, and it keeps changing,'' said William Galston, a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland who is working on Mr. Clinton's proposal for a new student-aid system.

But Mr. Galston noted that the Arkansas Governor has repeatedly listed the plan, under which loans could be repaid through community service or income-contingent payroll deductions, as a high priority.

"It's one of the signature ideas of the President-elect, and one that has gotten a good public response,'' he said. "If you wanted, you could use the dread word 'mandate.' So it's a candidate for early movement.''

Another possibility for early action would be "to come back with some version of S 2,'' a bill that died in the 102nd Congress, said Gloria Cabe, who is working on education and job-training policy for the transition.

S 2 would have established a block grant to fund the development and implementation of state and local reform plans. In addition, it included provisions to reconfigure the National Education Goals Panel for political balance and set the terms under which the federal government would support the development of national standards and assessments. (See Education Week, Oct. 7, 1992.)

Mr. Clinton might revive S 2 in whole or in part, Ms. Cabe said, noting his support for national education standards and a national testing system.

'A Real Education President'

"It's a way to do something early, away from the long and laborious process'' of reauthorizing elementary and secondary programs, which is to begin in 1993, she said. "It's a way to show that there's a real 'education President' here.''

She said there may also be some reauthorization proposals Mr. Clinton "would like to lay down as markers'' early in the year.

The policy team will also make recommendations on the pending reauthorization of the Education Department's research branch.

Presenting the Options

Ms. Cabe is working with Michael Cohen, who was the Clinton campaign's education adviser, to draft education-policy options. They and Mr. Galston report to Al From, the chief of domestic policy for the transition.

Mr. Galston is affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of Democratic moderates of which Mr. Clinton has served as the chairman and Mr. From as the executive director.

Ms. Cabe is a former Arkansas state legislator who worked with Mr. Clinton on his education-reform legislation during the early 1980's, later becoming his education adviser. Mr. Cohen, who is currently a co-director of the National Alliance for Restructuring Education at the National Center on Education and the Economy, worked with Mr. Clinton on the Arkansas reforms as an education analyst for the National Association of State Boards of Education and the National Governors' Association. (See Education Week, Oct. 14, 1992.)

While Mr. Cohen was education-policy director at the N.G.A., he worked with Ms. Cabe and Mr. Clinton during the governors' education summit with President Bush and the subsequent drafting of the national education goals, as Mr. Clinton was the N.G.A.'s chief negotiator.

"Our job,'' Mr. Cohen said, "is to present the President-elect with some options from which he can choose in terms of legislative content and legislative strategy--to take positions and promises Clinton made in the campaign and flesh them out in a proactive way into a set of policy proposals he can advance when he takes office.''

Outreach to Education

The aides said they will include the views of lawmakers and education advocates, adding that they are particularly interested in upcoming reports by two commissions studying the Chapter 1 program.

The transition team will eventually "start a fairly formal outreach'' effort in the education community, Ms. Cabe said.

Keith B. Geiger, the president of the National Education Association, and Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, both spoke with Mr. Clinton on the telephone when the President-elect visited Washington last month. And N.E.A. officials have been in contact with each segment of the transition team, according to Michael B. Edwards, the union's manager of Congressional relations.

Mr. Cohen and Ms. Cabe have also been charged with drafting proposals dealing with job training and the school-to-work transition.

They acknowledged that the boundaries between their territory and that of the economic-policy team headed by Robert Reich are as yet unclear, as is the question of how the training initiatives will fit in with the rest of Mr. Clinton's economic program.

"We know there's a good bit of coordination that's going to have to happen,'' Ms. Cabe said.

They also must coordinate with Sarah E. Walzer, a legislative aide to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., who is in charge of family policy and early-childhood education.

The policy apparatus must also be coordinated with a separate personnel operation headed by Richard W. Riley, which is identifying prospects for jobs below the Cabinet level, and with nine "cluster groups'' being set up to study the workings of particular agencies and prepare briefing books for top officials.

Transition leaders were poised to name the heads of the cluster groups late last week, including one focusing on the Education and Labor departments.

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