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Clinton Defends Programs And Hails Loan Expansion

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President Clinton last week took his defense of embattled education programs on the road, urging a community-college association meeting in Minneapolis to fight Republican plans to cut back student-loan subsidies and the direct-lending program.

"The fault line of American society is education," the President told members of the Association of Community and Junior Colleges. He argued that bringing educational opportunities to the disadvantaged--as community colleges are designed to do--is the way to increase prosperity and decrease social discord.

"Number one, do no harm. Don't undo what we just did," Mr. Clinton said, imploring Congress not to eliminate recently enacted education programs such as the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

He said that it would be wrong to reduce the budget deficit by eliminating federal subsidies for interest on college loans accrued while borrowers are in school and that any new tax cut should be "focused like a laser beam on education" deductions.

Mr. Clinton also announced that 450 additional institutions plan to join the direct-lending program--under which the government makes loans to students through their schools--bringing to 45 percent the portion of loans administered under the program.

The President contended that expanding the direct-loan program would help reduce the deficit as well as improve management problems associated with the older guaranteed-loan system, an assertion that opponents of direct loans--who want to cap the program's growth--dispute.

"Let's reduce the deficit by increasing education, not by reducing it. That's the message that I want you to take out there," Mr. Clinton said, urging educators to lobby on behalf of education programs.

Continuing the Administration's effort to enlist support, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley held a teleconference with education reporters and representatives of college media after the speech.

Heritage Blueprint: In a detailed blueprint for slashing the federal bureaucracy and budget, the Heritage Foundation proposes eliminating the Education Department and most of its programs.

The report, released at a news conference last month, fleshes out the details of ideas, such as the abolition of the Education Department, that were contained in a briefing book prepared late last year for new members of the Republican-led Congress. (See Education Week, 12/7/94.)

The report proposes merging 72 education, welfare, and social-service programs into a massive block grant to states. The list includes such education programs as Title I, Pell Grants, and Head Start, as well as job-training programs for youths and school-meals programs.

The block grant and the guaranteed-student-loan program would be administered by the Health and Human Services Department under the Heritage plan, and the responsibility for compiling education statistics would be handled by a new "bureau of national statistics."

The far-ranging proposal, which the conservative think tank says would save $799 billion over five years, also includes tax-policy proposals and recommendations for budgetary reforms.

"Rolling Back Government: A Budget Plan to Rebuild America" is available for $20, plus shipping charges, from Heritage Foundation Publications, 214 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002; (202) 546-4400.

Empowerment Zones: The Education Department has named some of the grant programs under which it will give special consideration to applications from communities the Clinton Administration has designated as enterprise and empowerment zones.

About 100 troubled urban and rural areas were named last year and were to receive special social-service block grants and preference in certain grant programs. The six urban and three rural areas identified as empowerment zones received the largest grants. (See Education Week, 9/21/94.)

In three April 20 Federal Register notices, the Education Department announced that school districts in the zones will receive preference in applying for bilingual-education aid.

The notice also indicated that similar rules would be announced for the agency's urban-community-service program, grants for parent training and early-childhood education under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and "a variety of discretionary programs" under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Safe-Schools Advice: The Education Department has published a book of "practical advice for communities working to make their schools and neighborhoods safe for children."

The book, released last month, recounts the efforts of 79 schools that have been honored by the department's drug-free-schools recognition program.

Success Stories '94: A Guide to Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools is available free from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 603 Portals, Washington, D.C. 20202; (800) 624-0100.

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