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Republicans Settle on Generous Budget Bill

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Washington

Republicans last week outbid President Clinton for this year's education budget.

A team of congressional appropriators offered to raise Department of Education spending $3.5 billion--$673 million more than Mr. Clinton requested--for the fiscal year that begins this week, according to officials familiar with the proposal. Republican leaders and White House aides late last week haggled over unresolved issues in a mammoth spending plan designed to settle the federal budget for the full year. Most education issues had been settled as of last Thursday evening.

Congressional and Clinton administration officials were confident they could reach a final compromise in time to keep the government open for the Oct. 1 beginning of the 1997 fiscal year.

"It's quite extraordinary that the [Republican] majority has finally realized that it's important to provide substantial funding for education," said Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith. "It's accurate to say that the public pressure has been the biggest factor" in persuading Republicans to go beyond Mr. Clinton's request.

But a Republican involved in writing the plan said the majority had a more practical reason for giving in to Mr. Clinton.

"We can legislate, but the president has to sign it," said Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., the chairman of the House subcommittee that writes the education-spending plan. "It's an election year, and people would rather fight their differences at home."

Everybody Wins

Two weeks before the end of the fiscal year, the House and Senate sent signals that they wanted to at least match Mr. Clinton's school-spending request. But they offered a different list of programs they wanted to boost.

When faced with the question of whether to favor GOP priorities or the president's, Congress last week appeared to choose both, proposing to spend a total of $28.7 billion in fiscal 1997.

House Republicans sought an increase in special education spending, so they would add $784 million to raise the program's spending to $4 billion, sources said. That would be $483 million more than Mr. Clinton sought.

To satisfy the president, Republicans matched the $491 million he requested for the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and would pump an extra $464 million into the Title I remedial-education program, raising its total to $7.7 billion.

White House and congressional leaders spent last Friday morning in talks and hoped to complete a compromise the House would pass that evening, said Elizabeth Morra, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee.

The Senate was then expected to pass the final compromise over the weekend and send it to President Clinton in time to for him to sign the bill before the new fiscal year.

Va. Waiver Unresolved

The only major education issue unresolved late last week involved a waiver Virginia officials sought to allow their participation in Goals 2000. The state wants to spend its Goals 2000 money on computers and software. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley denied that request because he says the law requires the state write a thorough school-reform plan that explains how purchasing technology would accomplish those goals.

The Education Department would prefer that Virginia allow school districts to compete for Goals 2000 money to implement their own reform plans.

In a separate section of the bill, Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., sought $40 million to pay for repairing schools here. The $40 million would be added to $40.7 million in federal money already sent to the District of the Columbia.

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