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News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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NCTE Opposes GOP Reading Initiative

Passage of the proposed Reading Excellence Act, which was approved by the House Nov. 8 and now awaits action in the Senate, is "alarming," according to the National Council of Teachers of English, which adopted a resolution opposing the bill at its annual convention in Detroit last week.

The resolution, one in a series approved by the Urbana, Ill.-based professional organization at its conference, opposes the legislation because "it stands to impose restrictions on the types of reading instruction, professional-development programs, and research that could be supported with federal funds."

The act, in its current form, would not win support from a wide spectrum of educators, researchers, and others involved in literacy education, the resolution says. The bill's opponents also say it is based on erroneous research and that funding decisions would be controlled by the same federal agency that produced the research.

The Reading Excellence Act, a Republican alternative to President Clinton's America Reads proposal, would provide $210 million for new research, teacher training, and individual grants to help improve K-12 reading instruction.

New Law To Speed Adoption Process

A new measure signed into law by President Clinton aims to speed the adoption process and reduce states' efforts to place foster children back in homes where their health and safety could be at risk.

The law requires states to begin the process of terminating parental rights once children have been in foster care for 15 months, and even sooner if "aggravated circumstances"--such as sexual abuse, abandonment, or torture--are involved.

States will be rewarded financially for moving children into permanent homes--$4,000 for each foster child adopted, and an additional $2,000 for each child with special needs.

The law, which Congress passed before adjourning for the year, calls for spending $76 million in federal money over five years to promote adoption.

Most of that money will be used for financial rewards, taking from funds set aside to help states pay for welfare reform.

Nationwide, about 500,000 children are in foster care. They spend an average of two years in the system.

Discrimination-Awareness Site Created

The Department of Justice has created a World Wide Web site for children to explain the issues of prejudice and discrimination. The site was created following President Clinton's conference on hate crimes last month.

The site presents scenarios involving discrimination against children based on race, sex, and culture. Children are given options for responding to the scenarios.

They include one student who is picked on in the lunchroom because he is black, and a group of boys who prevent a girl from participating in a playground soccer game.

"By reading and thinking about other children's experiences, we can learn ways to respect and appreciate each other's differences," Attorney General Janet Reno says in an introduction to the site.

The site, called "Hateful Acts Hurt Kids," can be reached through the Kidspage of the Justice Department's main Web site, at www.usdoj.gov/kidspage/.

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