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A cash-flow problem

For most high-profile federal education programs, Congress gives the secretary of education some money to support experimental national programs.

But a technical mix-up will prevent Secretary Richard W. Riley from spending any money on such national and local projects under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program until next year.

"It's the only serious glitch that we know about," Undersecretary of Education Marshall S. Smith said last week.

In HR 3755, the omnibus appropriations bill that outlines federal education spending for fiscal 1997, Congress chose not to appropriate any money for Secretary Riley's pet projects. Instead, lawmakers said that the secretary could use $25 million of the $556 million appropriation for his special drug- and violence-prevention projects.

But Congress failed to give him authority to spend that money.

Aides on the House and Senate appropriations committees said Congress will likely restore the authority in a technical-corrections bill early next year.

Because the omnibus bill was crafted during an intense three-day period at the end of September, just before the new fiscal year began Oct. 1, some mistakes were made.

But even once Mr. Riley has the authority to spend the national program money, he'll face another hurdle.

Congress will still require the secretary to submit a request to shift the money from state grants to targeted programs.

"The secretary will have to submit a reprogramming request, and we will probably approve it because that's what the agreement is," a House appropriations aide said. "But I'd like to see what he asks for, given all of the rhetoric" surrounding the drug issue.

For the past several weeks, GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole has blamed the Clinton administration for the recent rise in teenage drug use.

The fund has been used to develop manuals on school uniforms and truancy, which President Clinton has touted during the campaign, model programs for students who have been expelled for carrying weapons, and coordinate efforts with the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.

--MARK PITSCH federal@epe.org

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