Clinton Offers Up 'Summer Challenge' to Communities
ARLINGTON, VA.--President Clinton and several members of his Cabinet came here last week to rally support for his embattled economic-stimulus program among business, education, and government leaders attending a conference designed to spur creativity in using money in the proposal for youth employment, Chapter 1, and Head Start.
Under the sponsorship of the Education and Labor departments, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Alliance of Business, the two-day "Summer Challenge'' conference drew 900 participants to discuss what local program directors can do to plan for an influx of federal money if Congress passes all or part of Mr. Clinton's $16.3 billion economic-stimulus bill.
The package as proposed includes $1 billion for summer-youth employment, $500 million for Chapter 1, and $500 million for Head Start.
The conference also sought to stimulate business interest in the summer-jobs and-education bill and reinforce the President's challenge to the private sector to create 1 million new summer jobs for youths.
For many participants, the key theme of the meeting was an attempt on the federal level to make connections between services provided under Head Start, Chapter 1, and the Job Training Partnership Act.
"I think what you're going to see is more coordination between Head Start, Chapter 1, and J.T.P.A.,'' said Jim Bogan, a Chapter 1 section administrator in the Louisiana education department. "We plan to do that when we get back to Louisiana.''
"It's going to be real interesting because we know each other, but we really don't talk to each other,'' Mr. Bogan added. "Now we're going to.''
Mr. Clinton used his participation in the conference and in a satellite-televised town meeting last week to marshal support for the stimulus plan and to rouse those who will have the responsibility of spending the additional federal money.
"I don't have all the answers, but I do know this: Doing nothing is not the answer,'' the President said.
"We cannot go another 10 years without giving these children something to say 'yes' to,'' he added.
The stimulus package remains mired in negotiations between the White House, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans, who filibustered the plan to a halt before the Congressional Easter recess.
Both sides stepped up their lobbying efforts last week, with Democrats targeting moderate Republicans who might vote to break the filibuster and Republicans holding their own town meetings.
Several Republican mayors attended the conference last week to support Mr. Clinton's proposal.
Late last week, the President affirmed his willingness to compromise on the overall size of the package, but said he would insist on preserving the summer-jobs funding.
Observers said one funding item that is a likely target for a cut is the $1.86 billion included in the measure to close a Pell Grant shortfall. (See related story, page 23.)
The proposal also includes $300 million for childhood immunizations and $15 million for a summer national-service program.
The President told conference participants that he, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich will visit summer programs that are receiving stimulus money.
Making Head Start Plans
Meanwhile, participants spent the conference attending various workshops on how to use the added federal dollars and how to form linkages with other programs.
For example, Mary Nakashian, the executive deputy director of the New York City Human Resources Administration, said the city will use its money to serve Head Start-eligible children who now only participate in city-provided day care.
"What we're going to be doing this summer is further blurring the distinction between Head Start and day care,'' she said.
The additional $16 million the city expects to receive will also go toward providing Head Start services in the early-evening hours by soliciting the participation of high school students as aides, reaching out to families of Head Start children, and establishing a demonstration program for 200 high school students to explore child services as a career.
The Health and Human Services Department last month sent guidance to Head Start directors about the availability of funds and what they could be used for.
Funds can be used to extend services to children and families already enrolled, to expand services not being offered, and to begin service for children who will qualify for 1993-94, the guidance indicates. A percentage of the allocation must be set aside for training and quality improvements.
Leeway on Chapter 1
Chapter 1 funds are to be distributed through a formula that focuses on districts with the heaviest concentrations of economically disadvantaged children.
Education Department officials said the funds can be used for the same array of programs that Chapter 1 supports during the school year, including staff development, parent education, and social services, as well as more traditional remedial instruction.
As during the school year, funds must be spent for the benefit of eligible children, eligible private school students must be included on an equitable basis, and all students in schoolwide projects can be served.
However, officials said, schools can choose to use the funds for different purposes than they do during the school year, and can allocate them differently if another option is allowable under the regulations.
In addition, the supplemental allows more leeway than the regular statute to fund field trips and other recreational activities, said officials, who urged educators to mix such activities in with academic instruction.
But districts that were already planning summer programs, which can be funded from regular Chapter 1 allocations, do not have the flexibility to redirect the additional funds to the next school year. The funds must be used to supplement activities that were already planned.
Jack Baptista, Chapter 1 coordinator for the Boston public schools, said his district had decided this year to discontinue a longstanding summer instructional program because the district stands to lose 16 percent of its current Chapter 1 budget. The supplemental funds would allow the program to continue for another year, he said.
Most coordinators from districts that already have ongoing summer programs said they planned to focus their supplemental funding on noninstructional activities, such as staff training and parent education.
For example, Preston Bryant, the assistant superintendent for categorical programs for the Chicago schools, said his district would launch new parent-involvement efforts, provide additional planning assistance to schools whose Chapter 1 programs have been targeted for program improvement, and evaluate those running schoolwide projects to insure that they are operating "true schoolwide-improvement efforts, not just add-ons.''
Job Training Tied to Study
Few details emerged at the conference on summer-youth jobs. Nor was more information available on the academic-enrichment portion of the plan, which has been touted by the Administration as a key innovation.
At a news conference, Mr. Reich said that student workers will be expected to undertake 90 hours of study over the summer and that the department will evaluate the program before it begins and after it is completed.
But he added that localities would be given as much flexibility as possible, with the goal of preventing students' educational progress from sliding back over the summer months.
Job-training officials are also planning for an increase in funds.
Rogelio Trevino of the South Texas Private Industry Council Inc. in Laredo, Tex., said he has asked nine local school districts to offer more occupational and remedial instruction over the summer.
"We've had a lot of educational activity with the schools in the past, so we're just expecting to expand it,'' he said.
Mr. Trevino said he hopes to find jobs for 2,000 students this summer if the stimulus package is passed, 800 more than usual.
Washington Editor Julie A. Miller and Senior Editor Lynn Olson contributed to this story.