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Published in Print: April 14, 1999, as Federal File

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Waiving California

California can use its $129 million in federal class-size-reduction aid to hire high school teachers, Vice President Al Gore announced at a Los Angeles ceremony last week.

Because California already has a class-size-reduction plan in kindergarten through 3rd grade, Gov. Gray Davis requested a waiver from the federal Department of Education to use its money for secondary classes. The federal initiative, passed as part of last year's budget plan, gives money to states to hire new teachers and reduce class sizes in grades K-3.

The Democratic governor, a important supporter of Mr. Gore's for his party's 2000 presidential nomination, personally delivered the waiver request to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley in February.

"I want to expand this program to every 9th and 10th grade math and English class in California," Mr. Davis said at last week's event.

Mr. Gore, who later attended a Beverly Hills fund-raiser with the governor, also announced that the Education Department would expedite the state's $32 million grant from the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program, which will help implement new accountability provisions in the state.

Y2K-ready

The Department of Education met the federal government's March 31 deadline for preparations for the "Year 2000" computer bug, according to acting Deputy Secretary of Education Marshall S. Smith.

The bug--really a number of date-related computer glitches--can cause errors and breakdowns in computer systems. It poses a potential threat to the department's operations, and especially to the timely delivery of more than $50 billion in federally backed student loans to more than 8 million college students annually.

In a statement, Mr. Smith said all of the department's 175 data systems had been renovated, independently validated and verified, and implemented. That includes the 14 systems that the department deems to be critical to its mission.

In February, the department got an A-minus grade on its "Y2K" preparations from the House Subcommittee on Government, Management, Information, and Technology. Now, the White House Office of Management and Budget says the department is in its highest tier of readiness among federal agencies.

--Joetta L. Sack & Andrew Trotter

Vol. 18, Issue 31, Page 22

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