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Federal File: Supporting language; Shifting seats

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Supporting Language

President Clinton offered a ringing endorsement of bilingual-education programs in a recent speech, but stopped short of opposing legislation that would make English the nation's official language.

"Of course, English is the language of the United States," the president said last month at a fund-raiser for the Hispanic Caucus Institute, a Washington-based, nonprofit group that finds internships here for Hispanics

"That is not the issue," he said. "The issue is whether children who come here, while they are learning English, should also be able to learn other things. The issue is whether American citizens who work hard and pay taxes and are older and haven't mastered English yet should be able to vote like other citizens."

Pending appropriations bills would cut federal spending on bilingual and immigrant education in fiscal 1996; the proposal endorsed by the House would slice funding in half.

At the same time, legislation has been introduced in the House to make English the official language, and some Republican presidential candidates have touted the idea.

Mr. Clinton has not directly addressed the issue on a national level. But as governor of Arkansas, he signed a bill to make English the official language of that state.

Shifting Seats

Rep. Jack Reed, D-R.I., plans to run for the Senate seat of Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, a longtime champion of education programs who has said he will not seek re-election in 1996.

Mr. Reed, a member of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee who is serving his third two-year term, pledged to fight against education cuts and carry on the tradition of Mr. Pell, the Democrat for whom the federal Pell Grant is named.

Mr. Reed, 45, made his announcement at the Cranston, R.I., school department, in a conference room named after his father, Joseph A. Reed, who was a janitor for the district.

Democrats have added Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., to the House education panel. The freshman lawmaker replaces Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-Ill., who resigned from Congress after a jury found him guilty of having sexual relations with an underage campaign worker.

The appointment of Mr. Fattah, 39, a former state legislator from Philadelphia, must be approved by the House.

--Mark Pitsch

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