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Capital Digest: House Clears Budget; Senate Starts Debate

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House Clears Budget

The House last week passed a $1.6 trillion spending blueprint for fiscal 1997 that calls for curtailing overall education aid while maintaining current funding levels for the Title I remedial-education program and drug-education efforts.

The House plan, which would balance the federal budget by 2002, was approved May 16 on a 226-195 vote. Only 4 Republicans voted against it, while 5 Democrats voted in favor.

Meanwhile, the Senate began debate last week on its own budget resolution, which calls for raising federal school aid slightly through 2002 and recommends no specific program eliminations.

In their plan, House Republicans propose ending funding for the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, direct student loans, bilingual education, and the AmeriCorps service program. Discretionary aid for the spending category that includes education, training, and social programs would drop by $882 million next year. (See Education Week, May 15, 1996.)

Budget resolutions are nonbinding spending guides for appropriators.

The House defeated a balanced-budget plan from its black caucus, 362-63; a budget proposed by a coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats, 295-130; and President Clinton's budget plan, 304-117. No other proposed amendments were allowed in floor debate.

Education groups contend that the GOP plans passed by the House and Senate would hurt education programs, and could lead to the same gridlock that marked 1996 budget deliberations.

Congress and the White House agreed on a 1996 budget last month, seven months after the targeted completion date. (See Education Week, May 1, 1996.)

"Once again, they are proposing large increases in military spending and large tax cuts," Keith B. Geiger, the president of the National Education Association, said in a written statement.

Md. Joins Ed-Flex

The Department of Education has named Maryland the latest "Ed-Flex" state.

The designation allows Maryland's education agency to waive many federal rules for school districts. Maryland is the seventh Ed-Flex state, joining Ohio, Oregon, Kansas, Massachusetts, Texas, and Vermont.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley made the announcement May 9.

The 1994 renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act allowed the secretary to name six such states. The recently enacted omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 1996 expanded the demonstration to 12 states.

Summer Reading

The Department of Education wants 1 million youngsters to take part in this summer's Read*Write*Now! program, which aims to bring private and public sponsors together to promote reading.

The program, which began last summer with about 425,000 youngsters, is partly paid for with $1 million from the department's administration budget.

The department has produced 1 million reading kits, complete with how-to guides and reading lists. Most will be distributed by local libraries and groups participating in the federally supported Reading is Fundamental book-distribution program.

Each participant must have an older learning partner. And the young readers, typically in grades K-6, are expected to read 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for eight weeks.

Each reading kit has a coupon for a free Pizza Hut pizza as an incentive to complete the program.

The department's reading materials can be obtained by calling (800) USA-LEARN, or on the Internet at

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