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Riley Warns of Cuts in Anti-Drug Program

Keeping the pressure on congressional Republicans to pass a fiscal 1996 spending bill favorable to education programs, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley warned recently that looming cuts in the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program could affect 40 million children and 97 percent of all school districts.

"This program is no panacea. It is only one front in this important battle," Mr. Riley said at a Feb. 9 news conference, a week after another briefing where he warned of potential cuts in the Title I compensatory-education program.

"But we are determined to do our part," he said. "In schools, our first responsibility is to create an environment conducive to learning."

Under the stopgap spending bill financing the Department of Education and other agencies whose fiscal 1996 appropriations have been stalled or vetoed, the anti-drug effort is funded at 75 percent of its 1995 level of $466 million.

While 1996 anti-drug grants are not distributed until July 1, uncertainty over federal aid is causing anxiety in districts now planning their 1996-97 budgets. (See Education Week, Feb. 14, 1996.)

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who chairs a subcommittee that oversees education spending, plans a hearing this week on the local impact of the budget impasse.

Republicans have said the anti-drug program, which also funds violence-prevention efforts, spreads its money too thin. A report by the Education Department's inspector general, released Feb. 8, found that four of eight states it studied gave anti-drug grants of less than $50 to some school districts. But the report also noted that all nine of the districts it studied in depth "had program elements that clearly discouraged drug use."

New Deadlines:

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley announced last week that the Department of Education will extend the application deadlines for 17 grant competitions that were disrupted when the agency was shut down for nearly a month by the federal budget stalemate and a snowstorm.

Mr. Riley said he wants "to allow more time for the preparation and submission of applications by potential applicants adversely affected by the closure of the department" and help them "compete fairly under these programs."

The postponement affects most competitions that had been scheduled to close between Dec. 18, when many federal employees were idled by a partial government shutdown, and Feb. 15, about a month after the department resumed full operations.

The deadlines for a number of research competitions, as well as several small disability-related programs, were extended to March 13, and bilingual-education deadlines to March 22. New deadlines will be set later for desegregation-assistance programs.

The list of affected programs and deadlines was published in the Feb. 12 Federal Register.

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