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Welfare Plans Must Include Services To Poor Children, Governors Agree

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Washington

While the nation's governors failed to rally behind a single recommendation last week on how Congress should structure a new welfare system, they did agree that any overhaul should include services to poor children and provide assistance to prevent teenage pregnancy.

After five days of contentious negotiations at the National Governors' Association conference here, Republican and Democratic governors remained at odds over whether welfare programs should be collapsed into huge block grants to the states, a scenario most of the Republicans favor, or preserved as federal entitlements to any individual who qualifies, a method backed by Democrats. Neither side had the necessary three-fourths majority to adopt its approach as N.G.A. policy.

The governors did, however, issue "general principles" to guide lawmakers as they write welfare-reform legislation in the coming months. Congressional leaders are holding hearings this week on the "personal responsibility act," the welfare plan contained in the House Republicans' "Contract With America." (See Education Week, Dec. 14, 1994.)

'Deserting Poor Children'

While the governors want the freedom to design their own welfare programs, many are not willing to sacrifice a significant portion of their federal funding for it. They urged that any plan to modify the federal entitlement programs that serve 14 million Americans should continue to focus on families and poor children and should stimulate movement from welfare to work.

"The governors recognize the special responsibility of governments at all levels in meeting the needs of children and families," the N.G.A. policy statement says.

The governors were not specific about strategies for preventing adolescent pregnancy, but agreed that such a program should be part of any welfare reform.

Many advocates of children's programs were disappointed that the N.G.A. failed to come out strongly in support of federal entitlements for needy children.

"The governors are deserting poor children in this country," David S. Liederman, the executive director of the Child Welfare League of America, charged.

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