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By Any Other Name, Chapter 1 Program Will Still Aid Poor Children

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Washington

In Atlanta, school officials are trying to use up their letterhead. A Minnesota official predicts that anything with "Chapter 1" on it could become a collectors' item.

That is because Congress has decreed that "Chapter 1" is out and "Title I" is in--again.

In reauthorizing Chapter 1 last week as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, lawmakers restored the label given the program when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law in 1965.

Depending on whom you ask, the shift symbolizes a renewed commitment to the program's aim of aiding poor children--and a backhanded slap at the Reagan Administration--or merely reflects the way the new legislation is organized.

The program's name was changed to Chapter 1 in 1981, when the Reagan Administration proposed consolidating virtually all federal education programs into block grants.

The compensatory-education program survived that effort, but its rules were drastically pared. Both the title of that year's reauthorization bill, the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act, and the change from Title I to Chapter 1 suggested a more streamlined profile.

John F. Jennings, the chief education counsel for the House Education and Labor Committee, said the latest change was important to the panel's chairman, Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich.

"He felt it was important to go back to the initial name and give continuity to the program," said Mr. Jennings. "In the minds of others, this is the time to reassert this as a major program, and Title I sounds more significant."

Symbol or Coincidence?

Indeed, the Clinton Administration had proposed major changes in the program, including a much more dramatic shift in funding toward the neediest school districts than Congress approved. The Administration also proposed the name change.

"Our sense was Title I stood for support of the disadvantaged, and the change to Chapter 1 stripped that away," said Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith.

But another longtime supporter said the label has little significance.

Because the E.S.E.A. was first organized with several "titles," the first section of the act was called "Title I," said Phyllis McClure, an education consultant and a founding member of the Independent Commission on Chapter 1. In 1981, the E.S.E.A. was part of a larger bill, and the program became a "chapter" for that reason, she said.

"I know some people thought there was substantive meaning, but there wasn't," she said.

Whatever the symbolic meaning, the name change means some educators and advocates are facing a few decisions.

The National Coalition of Title I/Chapter 1 Parents will keep its current name, said Richard L. Nero Sr., the chairman of its board of directors.

In part, that is because changing the name would be a logistical nightmare. More important, he said, "Chapter 1" removed some parental-involvement mandates that are being restored.

"I think the name change is good. But keeping Chapter 1 in our title reminds us that Chapter 1 took a lot away from parent participation," Mr. Nero said.

"I don't know whether to call it Chapter 1 or Title I," said Jessie R. Montano, the president of the National Association of Compensatory Education and the director of special programs for the Minnesota Department of Education.

"I think the biggest consternation will be letterheads, logos, and pins," she said. "Those are the new collectors' items."

Estella Turner, the secretary to the director of the Atlanta public schools' Chapter 1 program, said she will have to order new letterhead, but the name change will not faze her. She already deals with computer programs that refer to both Title I and Chapter 1.

"It might be confusing to some, but not me," she said. "I've been working with Chapter 1 since 1965."

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