Gore Panel Urges E.D. To Abolish 41 of Its Programs
WASHINGTON--The Education Department should eliminate a sixth of all its programs and consolidate more than a dozen others, the "reinventing government'' task force headed by Vice President Gore urged last week.
The National Performance Review recommendations presented by Mr. Gore included ideas for improving the whole range of government activities, as well as specific changes for individual departments and agencies. But the proposals appeared to single out the Education Department, which has been repeatedly faulted for poor management in recent years, by calling for the outright elimination of a number of its programs.
Mr. Gore also called on the Education Department and other agencies to give front-line workers more decisionmaking power, free grant recipients from burdensome regulations, and be more responsive to taxpayers.
Mr. Gore presented his 168-page report, "From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less,'' to President Clinton at a White House ceremony attended by nearly all members of the Cabinet.
The report outlines hundreds of ways to streamline and improve the federal bureaucracy, which it said would save taxpayers as much as $108 billion over five years.
"This report,'' the Vice President said, "is just the beginning.''
On the Chopping Block
The report proposes dropping 41 of the Education Department's 230 current programs.
Although the document does not specify the programs recommended for elimination, it gives three examples: the State Student Incentive Grant, which the Administration says has accomplished its goal of spurring states to create need-based college-tuition grants; a program to subsidize collegiate research libraries, which the report calls an institutional responsibility; and the National Academy of Space, Science, and Technology, which the report suggests should be combined with the National Science Scholars program.
A department spokeswoman did not have a list of recommended cuts, but they are expected next week when the department releases its follow-up report.
One Congressional aide suggested turning to Mr. Clinton's fiscal 1994 budget proposal for possible programs on the chopping block.
The budget called for the elimination of 24 programs that have small constituencies. The Administration said in proposing the budget that those programs have either served their purpose, duplicate the function of other programs, or are obsolete. (See Education Week, April 14, 1993.)
The House has rejected most of those proposals for now. But the aide suggested that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education would be "open minded'' toward the recommended cuts.
Program Consolidation Urged
The new blueprint also urges the consolidation of 10 other Education Department programs, funded at a total of $1.6 billion in the current fiscal year, into a flexible block grant.
The proposal, which is based on a suggestion from the National Governors' Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures, calls for such programs as the Chapter 2 state block grant, state grants for drug-free schools, and the Eisenhower mathematics and science program to be included in the new block grant.
Another consolidation proposal, which would be applicable to all departments, would allow states and localities to combine federal grants in exchange for federal payments for the administrative costs of running those programs. Local agencies would have to obtain federal approval for consolidating grants only if they totaled more than $10 million.
The report also recommends flexibility for grant recipients in following federal regulations in exchange for greater accountability.
Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine M. Kunin said in an interview that the Administration's proposal to reauthorize elementary and secondary education programs would include such waiver authority.
In addition, the Gore report proposes the consolidation of 20 employment and training programs, with current total funding of $5.5 billion, from the Education and Labor departments.
Among the programs slated for consolidation are vocational- and adult-education programs and the Labor Department's youth-employment-and-training program.
These recommendations would require Congressional approval.
The plan comes as the Education Department is under pressure to improve its management and efficiency.
The report "reinforces what we're doing and creates a climate for reform,'' said Ms. Kunin, who is directing the department's reinventing-government effort. "We'll be able to accomplish some things from being a part of a governmentwide initiative that we probably wouldn't be able to do otherwise.'' (See Education Week, Sept. 8, 1993.)
Other general recommendations in "From Red Tape to Results'' that would affect the Education Department include proposals to:
- Trim 252,000 federal jobs, mostly in middle management. This 12 percent reduction would bring the federal workforce to below two million workers for the first time since 1967.
While the exact impact of the cutbacks on the Education Department was unclear, Ms. Kunin noted that the department hoped to shift some employees, or even hire new ones, for the implementation of the new direct-loan program created by last month's deficit-reduction legislation.
- Shift to a two-year budget process, beginning in fiscal 1997-98.
- Ask agency inspectors general to help prevent "waste, fraud, and abuse'' as well as to investigate it.
- Give agency heads more authority to grant states and localities waivers from federal regulations and mandates.
- Require more cooperation between such agencies as the Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development departments.
"We spend about $60 billion a year on the well-being of children,'' the report points out. "But we have created at least 340 separate programs for families and children, administered by 11 different federal agencies and departments.''
- Create one-stop career-development centers that would provide education and training and other services.
- Provide federal workers with greater responsibility in exchange for accountability, and form a partnership between labor and management.
Copies of the report are available for $14 from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954; (202) 783-3238.