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Clinton Likely To Seek Budget Increase for E.D.

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Washington

The Clinton Administration is expected to seek significant increases for selected education programs--including its proposed "Goals 2000'' reform strategy--in the fiscal 1995 budget, but will also call for eliminating at least two dozen smaller programs.

Over all, according to lobbyists and Capitol Hill sources, the President's budget will include slightly more for the Education Department than the $28.8 billion Congress appropriated for the agency for fiscal 1994.

Education would be one of a handful of federal agencies to receive an increase. Under the Administration's plan, only five of 14 agencies would have larger budgets in fiscal 1995, which will begin Oct. 1, than they have during the current fiscal year, according to Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

It is unclear whether the Health and Human Services Department and the Labor Department would be among the lucky five. Education, health, and labor programs are funded by Congress under the same appropriations bill.

Mr. Panetta, speaking at a news conference last month, named Head Start, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and the Corporation for National and Community Service as priority areas in which increases would be proposed.

"And on education,'' the director said, "there is a major funding increase for Goals 2000, as well as Chapter 1 and school-to-work.''

Increases and Cuts

Mr. Panetta refused to provide further details about the 1995 budget plan, which is slated for release Feb. 7, and Education Department officials would not elaborate.

But department officials said last fall that they had secured a commitment from the O.M.B. for a $700 million increase for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, which would bring total funding for the program to $7.6 billion.

The request for Goals 2000, a Clinton initiative that would support state and local school-reform efforts, is expected to reach several hundred million dollars.

Legislation to authorize the new program has not been enacted, but Congress appropriated $105 million to launch it if the measure passes by April 1. The House has passed its version of the legislation, HR 3210; the Senate is expected to take up its bill, S 1150, later this month or in early February.

Also pending is legislation to create a new program focused on the school-to-work transition. For fiscal 1994, Congress gave the Labor and Education departments $50 million each to launch the program under existing programmatic authority..

The Administration's education budget for the current fiscal year allocated virtually all of its proposed spending increases to the President's new initiatives, while proposing cuts in many existing programs. The 1995 budget is expected to take the same approach.

Mr. Panetta said that increases in one area will be offset by proposed reductions in others. Numerous education programs will be slated for elimination, he said, without elaborating.

Waiting for the Package

But Congress may not go along.

"There is an atmosphere [in Congress] to fund both [new and existing programs], but there is more of a drive to fund direct service for poor kids,'' said Susan Frost, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group.

Last year the Administration asked for $420 million for the Goals 2000 program, and $270 million for the school-to-work initiative. In addition to sharply paring down those figures, lawmakers rejected many of the Administration's proposed cuts.

"The real question is, if they [ask for] all of these cuts, will Congress reach the stage where they'll go along?'' said an aide to Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and its education subcommittee.

The odds of Congress's endorsing increased funding for Chapter 1 and Goals 2000 would be improved by "early movement on the authorizing legislation,'' the aide said.

Chapter 1 is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is to be reauthorized this year.

Ms. Frost said the education community here is unsure how it will respond to the budget. Last year, education lobbyists opposed plans to eliminate programs, but most declined to attack President Clinton as aggressively as they did some of his predecessors.

"I don't think there is a way to say what we will or won't do until we see it as a package,'' Ms. Frost said. "We have never been presented a budget with a substantial investment for education that included a reconfiguration of programs.''

Ms. Frost called the Administration's spending plan for fiscal 1995 "a much more important document than what they presented last year, when they were forced to throw something together.''

"This is the first budget from the Clinton Administration where they had the time to reflect and to indicate their priorities,'' she said.

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