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Action Delayed on IDEA, Block-Grant Proposal

The House education committee has put off consideration of a bill that would replace a number of education programs with a block grant, as well as legislation to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and may not ACT on either measure until next year.

"We are in a bit of a holding pattern right now," said Cheri Jacobus, the spokeswoman for the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee.

She said the committee's time has been spent preparing for conferences with the Senate on student-loan issues that will be part of a budget-reconciliation package, welfare reform, and a labor bill.

In addition, committee members and staff were pressed into action last month when the House leadership decided to take job-training legislation it drafted to the floor in anticipation of likely Senate action on a companion bill.

Ms. Jacobus also said that "there's a sense that we have a little more work to do" on the block-grant bill. Aides have said that the legislation, which would replace 11 programs with a block grant, would propose requiring states and districts to adopt challenging academic standards to receive funds and allowing federal aid to be used for voucher programs that include private schools (See Education Week, Aug. 2. 1995.)

The House committee has released a draft of its proposal to reauthorize the idea, but is still refining it. The Senate education committee plans to introduce a draft reauthorization bill this month.

While the best-known sections of the landmark law--guaranteeing disabled children a free, appropriate public education and authorizing grants to help pay for it--are permanently authorized, some parts of the law are due to expire this week. Those programs include a number of training and research programs and the so-called Part H program, which gives states seed money for serving infants and toddlers with disabilities.

Both the House and Senate have put off plans to enact a one-year extension for those programs, but aides said the programs will not lapse because appropriators have allocated funds for them for the new fiscal year.

Since these programs are forward funded, that fiscal 1995 money would not be allocated until next July, by which time lawmakers expect to have completed an idea bill.

Wofford Nomination Advances

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee last week approved by voice vote the nomination of former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., to head the embattled Corporation for National Service.

The nomination of Thomas R. Bloom as the Education Department's new inspector general was also approved by the same committee vote.

The nominations must also be approved by the full Senate, although it is unclear how soon that will happen.

While Mr. Wofford's nomination has faced little opposition, the longtime activist, who helped start the Peace Corps in 1961, may find himself without an agency to head. Both the Senate and House have approved budget bills that would cut all funding for the corporation, which runs President Clinton's prized AmeriCorps service program as well as Learn and Serve America, a program that promotes service education in elementary and secondary schools.

"The votes are a case of political gamesmanship rather than a serious evaluation of AmeriCorps," said Roger Landrum, the president of Youth Service America, a Washington-based group that promotes community-service activities.

Mr. Clinton has threatened to veto both spending bills, and Mr. Landrum predicted that he will reject any bill that does not fund AmeriCorps.

He also praised Mr. Wofford as a "great appointment" who will "do his damnedest to get a bipartisan consensus on service."

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