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Federal File: In tandem; A new tax?; Running scared?; Kids' questions

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Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich underscored the Administration's plans for close cooperation between their agencies by appearing together at a meeting on school-to-work programs and at Congressional hearings last week.

They are also scheduled to appear at a conference this week sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, albeit on different days.

At one of the hearings the two secretaries attended last week, Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., offered up a radical suggestion: a new federal tax dedicated to precollegiate education.

Such a tax, Mr. Dodd said, could partially replace local property taxes as the source of education funding and alleviate "civil wars'' over school finance.

Mr. Riley did not comment.

Bankers who profit from student loans are apparently worried about the Clinton Administration's plan to phase out the current loan program in favor of a system in which the government would make loans directly to students.

In the first salvo of an all-out lobbying effort against direct loans, the Consumer Bankers Association and the National Council on Higher Education Loan Programs are planning a "Lobby Day'' this week, on which at least 100 industry representatives will talk with lawmakers from their home states.

In his recent appearance on a Saturday-morning ABC-TV special, President Clinton fielded several school-related questions from the children in the studio audience.

Mr. Clinton said he would have sent federal troops to integrate schools in his home state of Arkansas, just as President Eisenhower did.

Children from Washington complained about planned school closings and teacher furloughs there.

Anastasia Somoza, a 3rd grader from New York City, said she would like her identical twin, Alba, to move from her special-education program to a regular class. Both girls use wheelchairs because of cerebral palsy, but Alba is also unable to talk.

Mr. Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, and her cat, Socks, also made an appearance.

Chelsea said having Secret Service agents follow her to school is not a big problem because they spend most of their time in a third-floor office. She noted, though, that they do watch her gym classes and soccer practices from the bleachers.--J.M.

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