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Republicans Unveil New Welfare Bill

Republican congressional leaders have introduced a revised welfare-reform bill that incorporates suggestions by the nation's governors to loosen federal restrictions and boost child-care funding.

The new legislation, like earlier GOP plans, would transfer control of most federal welfare programs to the states in the form of block grants. But the new bill scraps a provision which would have required states to bar cash benefits for additional children born to women on welfare. It also discards a measure that would have decreased aid to some disabled children under the Supplemental Security Income program. (See Education Week, May 15, 1996.)

Republicans also answered calls by governors for increased child-care funding, increasing the authorized budget by $4 billion.

The changes move lawmakers toward President Clinton's position, and he has praised many aspects of the welfare bill. But the new bill also includes controversial changes to the federal Medicaid program that would give broader authority to the states.

The president has called those provisions unacceptable. After meeting with Mr. Clinton last week, several Democratic governors reportedly said that marrying the welfare plan with the Medicaid proposal--as well as other changes, such as larger cuts in food stamps and stronger work requirements--strays too far from the welfare proposal that won bipartisan support from governors.

GOP leaders are divided over whether to keep the Medicaid provision and score political points when Mr. Clinton vetoes the bill, or to craft an acceptable bill.

Virginia and Goals 2000

The Department of Education is apparently preparing to deny Virginia's request for Goals 2000 funds.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire board of education voted last week to allow districts to participate.

Three other nonparticipating states are also weighing joining the program, which offers grants to states and districts to draft and implement reform plans based on challenging academic standards.

Last week the Virginia board of education approved a resolution saying that the state would accept $6.7 million under Goals 2000 if federal officials agreed to let it use the money exclusively for computer equipment, as well as supplying "a written agreement that unconditionally releases" the state "from any obligation ... to comply" with the Goals 2000 law.

In a May 30 letter, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told William Bosher Jr., the state superintendent of public instruction, that the board "appears to be seeking Goals 2000 funds with no accountability at all."

In New Hampshire, the state board urged lawmakers to uphold Gov. Stephen Merrill's veto of legislation that would have required the state to participate, but voted to allow districts to apply.

"This is not a program that I want our state to participate in," said the board's chairman, Ovide Lamontagne, according to the Associated Press. But he said that he did not want to "say to school districts, 'You don't have the right or the ability to consider the impact for you.'"

Anti-Delinquency Drive

The departments of Justice and Education have launched a joint campaign to spur community-based partnerships to fight delinquency and draw dropouts back to school.

The "Youth Out of the Educational Mainstream Initiative" will help forge alliances between law enforcement, schools, social-service agencies, and businesses to create programs for at-risk youth.

Justice and Education department officials announced last month that they will give an $800,000 grant to the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif., to run the initiative. The center plans to hold four public forums this summer, and will provide technical assistance and training in 10 sites nationwide.

Vocational Honors

The Department of Education and the National Center for Research in Vocational Education have honored 10 "new American high schools."

At a recent conference in Washington, the schools were cited for helping students to meet challenging standards, prepare for college and careers, learn by doing, and work with mentors. NCRVE researchers selected the schools from among 300 nominations.

"We need high schools that are more personalized and equip our young people with both academic and technical skills," said Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

The honorees are: Encina High School, Sacramento, Calif.; Thompson Valley School District, Loveland, Colo.; Sussex Technical High School, Georgetown, Del.; William H. Turner Technical High School, Miami; Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences, Chicago; Fenway Middle College High School, Boston; Gateway Institute of Technology, St. Louis; High School of Economics and Finance, New York City; David Douglas High School, Portland, Ore.; Walhalla High School, Walhalla, S.C.

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