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House Historian Ousted Over Remarks as E.D. Reviewer

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Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich fired his choice for historian of the House last week after learning of controversial comments she made as a consultant to the Education Department in 1986.

Mr. Gingrich dismissed Christina Jeffrey amid press reports noting that she had said that a junior high school curriculum on the Holocaust gave "no evidence of balance or objectivity" because it omitted the views of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Ms. Jeffrey, an acquaintance and supporter of the Georgia Republican, had taken leave as an assistant professor at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., to assume the historian's post.

During the Reagan Administration, Ms. Jeffrey--who was then Christina Price--was asked by Education Department officials to review curricula seeking dissemination grants, including the Holocaust curriculum called "Facing History and Ourselves."

Ms. Jeffrey criticized tjat program, and her comments were denounced widely when they became public.

"The Nazi point of view, however, unpopular, is still a point of view, and it is not presented," she wrote. "Nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan."

Shirley Curry, who was in charge of the office conducting the competition, had ties to the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who wrote that "Facing History" involved "psychological manipulation." Critics charged that the review panel had been stacked with conservatives, and Congress forced changes in the review process.

In 1988, a Congressional hearing examined charges that Ms. Curry had manipulated grant rules to again deny the Holocaust curriculum federal funding--which it finally received in 1990.

Republican governors have been working with members of Congress on a welfare-reform proposal that could consolidate more than 300 social programs into block grants.

It could supersede part or all of the welfare-reform plan outlined in the the House G.O.P.'s "Contract With America," which would set new tough restrictions on welfare benefits and collapse several food programs, including school lunches, into a block grant.

But Congressional leaders and a task force of Republican governors headed by Gov. John Engler of Michigan said this month that they are considering block grants in other categories, such as child care, child welfare, and social services.

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, the House minority leader, Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., said Congress should not pass the responsibility for welfare to states without insuring that children and families get basic services.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala also criticized the contract's welfare plan as too hard on children, and announced at the hearing that President Clinton will hold a bipartisan conference on welfare reform Jan. 28.

Several children's groups, meanwhile, have stepped up their attacks on the G.O.P. contract. In a report it released last week on the status of black children, the Children's Defense Fund contended that five million to six million children of all races will face greater hunger, homelessness, neglect, and violence if the contract is enacted.

And the National Head Start Association argued that putting Head Start in a block grant would "destroy" the popular preschool program.

One House Republican is drafting legislation to revamp a Social Security Administration program that provides money to poor families with disabled children.

Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., plans to introduce a bill later this month, an aide said, and one option he is considering is replacing with vouchers the cash payments currently paid to families through the Supplemental Security Income program. If the cash incentive were removed, fewer parents would take advantage of what has grown into a $4.4 billion program, the spokesman argued.

The cash grants, which provide as much as $446 a month, are intended to help pay for food, shelter, clothing and medical and social services for children with disabilities.

News reports last year alleged that some parents have told their children to act up in school, fail classes, or fake symptoms of behavioral disabilities to qualify for the aid. But in a report issued last spring, the S.S.A. found relatively few incidences of "possible" parental coaching. (See Education Week, 06/01/94.)

A hearing on welfare-related programs, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27 by the Human Resources Subcommittee, will likely include discussion of the S.S.I. program.

Speaker Gingrich last week urged the House Ways and Means Committee to seriously consider President Clinton's proposal to make college tuition tax deductible.

"I don't think we should reject out of hand an idea just because it comes from the President. I'd like to accommodate it," the Speaker reportedly said at a hearing on the Contract With America.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the founder of the Rainbow Coalition, announced last week the formation of an "independent progressive movement" to counter the conservative political tide.

"We have analyzed the Republican contract," Mr. Jackson said. "At its core, it is a statement to Americans that--in a new global economy--they are on their own."

The movement will target 50 Congressional districts that its officials see as potentially receptive to progressive candidates to create an education and information network, Mr. Jackson said.

A Commission on Democracy will work to protect voting rights, the Motor Voter Act, and redistricting along racial lines. A new policy institute will work to develop strategy and analyze Congressional legislation.

--Mark Pitsch, Deborah L. Cohen, Lynn Schnaiberg, JULIE A. MILLER & Robert C. Johnston

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