News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Soda-Giveaway Ban Introduced
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., is leading an effort to stop schools from giving free soft drinks to students during lunchtime. The practice causes students to skip healthy drinks such as milk, he says.
Mr. Leahy introduced legislation on May 11 that would prohibit schools that participate in the federal School Lunch Program from giving away soft drinks and unhealthy snacks. The bill, S 998, is co-sponsored by his fellow Vermonter, James M. Jeffords, the Republican chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and several other senators from dairy states. Companion legislation, HR 1781, was introduced in the House by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-N.Y.
Some schools and businesses, Mr. Leahy contends, seek to skirt current law, which prevents the sale of sodas during lunch at schools, by giving away soft drinks and snacks with no nutritional value.
Sean McBride, the director of communications for the National Soft Drink Association, said the industry has no objection to the legislation. However, he said Sen. Leahy's accusations against the industry are "completely false."
--Erik W. Robelen
Calif. Improvement Dollars Announced
Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Gray Davis of California teamed up this month to announce that the Golden State will receive $32.4 million in federal grants this year to help pay for school improvement efforts.
The money comes from the federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program, a 1997 initiative that directs funding to low-performing schools as an incentive to improve student achievement. The same funds were turned down before by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who said the federal program conflicted with state reform efforts.
"These critical dollars will help lift our schools and raise the promise, performance, and potential of every student," Gov. Davis, a Democrat, said during a May 6 White House event to announce the award. California is the only state to have had its funding announced at a White House ceremony.
--Robert C. Johnston
Commission To Study High-Tech Skills
A new federal commission will study the skills needed for work in the information-technology industry and ways to expand the number of people with those skills.
Called the 21st Century Workforce Commission, the 15-member panel was authorized under the Workforce Investment Partnership Act of 1998. Part of its job is to look at how well programs other than those at four-year colleges are preparing information-technology workers.
The workforce act requires the commission to submit a report on its findings to Congress and the president within six months after its first meeting. No meeting date has been set. As of last week, the House and Senate leadership had named their 10 commission members, but President Clinton had selected only three of the five people he must appoint. According to the workforce act, all appointments were to have been made by last Oct. 31.
--Mary Ann Zehr
Vol. 18, Issue 36, Page 17