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Dole Campaign Preparing To Serve Up New Education Proposals

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Washington

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who has virtually secured the 1996 GOP presidential nomination, are preparing new proposals on education, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a March 8 article, reporter Ronald Brownstein wrote that the education planning is part of a broader effort to elucidate Mr. Dole's differences with President Clinton. The article said the Kansas senator is also weighing new environmental proposals. Mr. Clinton has relied on both issues to contrast his views with those of Republicans.

"We're looking at a whole range of things," Mr. Brownstein quoted Mr. Dole as saying. "If we are going to attract people to our campaign ... we have to give them some reason to do that."

The article did not say what Mr. Dole's education proposals might include, and his campaign staff did not respond to requests for elaboration last week.

In the past year, Mr. Dole has called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, criticized model national history standards, and expressed support for publicly financed vouchers that help students to attend the public, private, or religious schools of their choice.

But because his GOP primary rivals have expressed essentially the same views, Mr. Dole has not highlighted his positions on these matters. (See Education Week, Feb. 7, 1996.)

Mr. Brownstein's article also expressed doubt about whether Mr. Dole would seize on education and other social issues in the general election.

Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, this month announced the creation of a "truth squad" aimed at debunking Democratic rhetoric. Its first topic: school nutrition.

The staff will be "devoted to making sure that Bill Clinton and his allies don't get away with deceptions like the school-lunch fraud again," Mr. Barbour said at a news conference.

Joined by Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee chairman who led a drive to turn federal school-meals programs into a block grant, Mr. Barbour said that criticism of the proposal was part of the Democrats' "big lie campaign."

The block-grant plan was defeated, and Democrats won the rhetorical war by portraying Republicans as cold-heartedly taking food from poor children. GOP lawmakers backed a compromise as part of a welfare bill that would allow seven states to opt for modified block grants.

Mr. Barbour said the 4.7 percent increase for child-nutrition programs that provision calls for equals a recent budget plan from the White House sketching broad outlines for fiscal 1997 spending.

"No difference," Mr. Barbour said.

But there is no reason for the numbers to differ. Because the Republicans' final welfare plan preserved the entitlement status of the nutrition programs, Congress must appropriate enough money to serve all eligible children. That means the funding figures in both the bill and Mr. Clinton's budget plan are just estimates of the amount needed.

The Clinton-Gore campaign, meanwhile, has begun airing ads touting Mr. Clinton's social agenda.

One ad reportedly draws on the president's State of the Union Address, in which he declared, "Our first challenge is to cherish our children and strengthen America's families." It promotes, among other initiatives, Mr. Clinton's proposal to allow a tax deduction of up to $10,000 per year for postsecondary education.

The New York Times reported that the commercial is being aired in California and four Midwestern states, all of which are considered crucial to Mr. Clinton's re-election.

--Mark Pitsch

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