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Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., the chairwoman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, introduced a bill last week that would replace 23 youth-oriented federal programs with a block grant.

Under the Youth Development Block Grant proposal, dropout prevention, safe-and drug-free schools, and anti-crime initiatives geared to young people would be among the programs subsumed by the new program, which would funnel money directly to local communities.

Senator Kassebaum's bill, S 673, would authorize $2 billion per year for three years for "community-driven youth programs" chosen by youth-development boards, which would be appointed by local governments and youth-service organizations.

Little 'Reverse Discrimination'?: Complaints of "reverse discrimination" account for only a small percentage of bias claims handled by federal courts, according to a draft of a study commissioned by the Labor Department.

Such bias against whites and men was involved in fewer than 100 of more than 3,000 discrimination-related opinions issued by federal courts from 1990 through 1994, said an analysis prepared by Alfred W. Blumrosen, a law professor at Rutgers University.

The analysis, reprinted in a newsletter published by the Bureau of National Affairs, a private publishing company, concludes, based on the paucity of reverse-discrimination claims, that the problem is not as widespread as many believe.

The report also notes that the courts ruled against a majority of the reverse-discrimination plaintiffs--many of whom it belittles as unqualified sore losers--and upheld two-thirds of the affirmative-action programs challenged.

A Labor Department spokes-man said last week that the report was leaked without being reviewed, and declined to comment.

Default Rates: Four lawmakers charged last week that the Education Department has allowed for-profit trade schools with impermissibly high loan-default rates to slip into the new direct-lending program.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.; Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.; Rep. Pete Peterson, D-Fla.; and Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., charged that 59 institutions slated to join the program in the fall have registered default rates of 25 percent or higher for at least two years in a row, and six had posted rates of 40 percent or more for one year.

But the Education Department said in a statement that schools participating in direct lending must meet the same standards as those in the older guaranteed-loan program. Some of the lawmakers' information is faulty, and some is too recent to have been considered when participation decisions were made, the agency said. The statement also argued that new repayment options will help stem defaults.

Bob Shireman, the legislative director for Sen. Paul Simon D-Ill., noted in a memorandum that critics had insisted on including an array of institutions in the new program, so the department could not select "only 'good' schools to make direct lending look better."

Under the program, the government makes loans directly to students through their institutions, rather than private lenders. The Clinton Administration would like to expand the program rapidly, but Congressional critics--including Mr. Gordon--have pushed for a cap on its growth.

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