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Federal File: Enemy territory; Helping out

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Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, who has proposed slashing funding for the federal impact-aid program, last week took his message to enemy territory--a conference of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.

Mr. Riley's speech marked the first time a Cabinet member has addressed the group.

Some of those at the meeting praised the Secretary for taking a brave and direct step.

"You've got to give him some credit in being pretty forward on the future of the program,'' said one local school superintendent. "It's a refreshing change from the previous administrations, who've had the same mission but have been more underhanded about it.''

Impact aid, while quite popular with many members of Congress, has been a target of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The program reaped $109 million more for fiscal 1994 than the Clinton Administration had requested, including $137 million for the part of the program the Administration wants to eliminate entirely--aid to schools educating children whose parents either live or work on federal property.

The program is meant to compensate districts for revenue lost due to the presence of federal property or workers, and the Administration argues that children whose parents both live and work on federal property impose a greater burden.

Congress has always rejected that cut, and did so again this year.

Lawmakers agreed, however, to eliminate funds earmarked for districts serving military bases slated for closure.

Mr. Riley called the base closures "a wrenching and painful process.''

"For some of you the whole world seems to be turning upside down,'' he said. "But if we didn't do this, you'd be wondering what we're doing here in Washington.''


Mr. Riley, meanwhile, was named by President Clinton last week to serve on the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which was created in the 1970's to foster better relations between federal, state, and local government.

Mr. Riley, who served as Governor of South Carolina from 1978 to 1986, is the only Cabinet member on the commission.

The bipartisan commission's primary duties are to provide a forum for intergovernmental problem-solving, make policy recommendations for cooperation, identify coming issues, disseminate information, and offer technical assistance.
--L.S. & M.P.

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