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School Chiefs Share Fiscal Fears With Clinton

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Washington

Five urban school superintendents and a state schools chief joined President Clinton in a teleconference last week to voice alarm over proposals to decrease federal education spending.

Mr. Clinton acknowledged that the meeting was part of an effort to fight Republican budget plans by highlighting their impact on schools, but said he hoped the issue would transcend politics.

"What I'm trying to do this whole week with this back-to-school theme, is to try to lift this issue beyond politics," the president said.

But Republicans said that politics was the point, and charged that he was spreading misinformation about their plans.

Correct or not, the superintendents predicted that those plans would have dire consequences for their districts as the president, who was joined by Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, expressed sympathy.

For example, Robert C. Jasna, the superintendent of schools in Milwaukee, said his district stands to lose $513,000 in federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools funding, a 57 percent cut that he said would devastate peer-mediation and drug-education efforts.

A potential loss of $332,000 in vocational-education funding would cut into efforts to integrate math, science, English, and other subjects into a work-training program for hundreds of students, he added.

The Local View

David W. Hornbeck, the superintendent of the Philadelphia schools, said that killing the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, as the House budget plan proposes, would "deliver a body blow" to education reform.

He also said he would like to double to 240 the number of AmeriCorps members working in Philadelphia schools. The national service program would be eliminated under the pending appropriations bills.

Octavio Visiedo, who heads the Dade County, Fla., schools, said that proposed Title I reductions could crimp his system's ability to deal with large numbers of foreign-born students. Several classroom aides who helped with community outreach have already been released this year due to funding shortfalls, he said.

Also joining in the call were John E. Bierwirth, Oregon's state superintendent; N. Gerry House, the head of the Memphis, Tenn., public schools, and Albert Thompson, the superintendent of schools in Buffalo, N.Y.

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