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Immigration Changes on Hold

After lawmakers had vowed to revive work on a long-stalled immigration-reform bill, debate over a fiercely contested school provision has once again stymied it.

A House-Senate conference committee was scheduled to meet last week to hammer out differences in each chamber's version of HR 2202, but the session was abruptly canceled after several Democrats held a news conference denouncing the bill and its school provision.

At issue is the so-called Gallegly amendment, which would allow states to deny certain illegal-immigrant children a free public education. The House's version of the bill includes the provision; the Senate's does not. ("Pressure Builds To Nix School Ban for Illegal Immigrants," June 19, 1996.)

Republican leaders scuttled the scheduled Sept. 27 conference committee meeting to plot out a strategy for HR 2202. President Clinton has threatened to veto the bill should it include the school provision sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif. Republican leaders late last week were weighing options that included throwing out the provision altogether if Mr. Clinton would pledge to sign HR 2202, further weakening the Gallegly language, or keeping the provision and forcing a presidential veto in an election year when immigration is a hot-button issue.

"The only thing that's clear right now is that it's fairly unclear what will happen," said a Republican aide who did not want to be named.

In preparation for the scheduled meeting, Republicans had drafted a compromise schools provision that would allow some illegal-immigrant students to continue to receive a free public education until they reached the highest grade at their current school level, elementary or secondary.

But states could exclude any illegal-immigrant children who enrolled after Sept. 30 of this year, and schools would still have to check all students' immigration status.

Clinton Signs Impact-Aid Bill

President Clinton last week signed a bill making technical changes to the program that reimburses school districts for property taxes lost when the federal government owns a major portion of their land.

Most of the new law, formerly HR 3269, corrects mistakes Congress made when it reauthorized the impact-aid program in 1994.

The biggest change would reinstate 80 districts that became ineligible for a portion of the $16.2 million Congress appropriates to compensate local areas when the federal government owns more than 10 percent of local property.

The law also adds a clause that allows districts to win reimbursements for military dependents whose families move off base while their housing is renovated.

ED To Report on 2-Year-Old Test

Responding to questions about a delay in reporting the results from the 1994 long-term-trend version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress--the test that shows the progress of students since the 1970s--the Education Department now plans to summarize the results next month.

The department's National Center for Education Statistics, which runs the national assessment, expects to have the results out in a 32-page summary by mid-October--29 months after the test was given, said Gary W. Phillips, an associate commissioner at the NCES.

The delay is not unprecedented. It took 27 months for the 1992 long-term-trend results to come out.

CES Commissioner Pascal D. Forgione Jr. decided to issue the summary of the results because of questions being raised about the delay--including queries by Bob Dole's presidential campaign--as well as his desire to speed up reporting of NAEP data, Mr. Phillips said.

HHS:Abuse Statistics Skyrocket

The number of abused and neglected children has nearly doubled in the past few years, while the number of state investigations into such mistreatment has remained constant, a Department of Health and Human Services report released last week shows.

The federal survey estimates that 2.8 million children were victims of neglect or abuse in 1993, up from 1.4 million in 1986.

But only 28 percent of the children identified in the study as abused and neglected in 1993 were investigated by child-protective-service agencies.

In 1986, 44 percent of the cases were pursued. Despite the change in percentage, the overall number of inquiries held steady.

All's Quiet on the Meeting Front

Just when it looks like the late September lull in federal advisory meetings is about to offer a meeting-free week, a postponement comes to the rescue. To wit: The meeting of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, originally scheduled for earlier this month, will instead happen Sept. 26-27 in Washington. The group will consider a range of follow-up activities in support of its recent report on the status of education for Hispanic students. The group's agenda also includes planning its activities for the year ahead.

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