Capital Digest

September 06, 1989 7 min read

The Environmental Protection Agency has sued the New York City Board of Education for failing to notify the agency that it was removing asbestos from more than 80 schools.

The suit was among 13 filed by the epa last month against 34 companies, local governments, and individuals for violating federal Clean Air Act regulations concerning asbestos. Four of the suits allege that contractors hired by schools in Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Washington State violated notification, removal, or disposal requirements.

The regulations require building owners and contractors to notify federal authorities if they plan to remove more than 160 square feet of asbestos. The New York City board and the other defendants could face fines of up to $25,000 for each day of asbestos work that was improperly conducted or done without notification.

In March, the epa sued the New York City district for failing to notify federal officials about plans to remove asbestos from 50 schools.

“We have no way of knowing for certain that work standards were adhered to,” said John Dolinar, an epa lawyer who is handling the New York City case.

Robert Terte, a spokesman for the district, said he could not comment on whether the district or its contractors had notified federal officials about the asbestos work. He said that the district performed all such work according to federal standards.

The epa estimates that half of all asbestos projects nationally are not done in accordance with federal rules.

The federal vocational-education system needs more effective ways of supporting program improvements and targeting funds to low-income students, the National Assessment of Vocational Education has concluded.

Federal vocational-education funds are frequently used for activities local recipients would have undertaken anyway, or for helping individual students rather than for upgrading whole programs, according to the final report from the assessment.

Among the reasons funds are used for such purposes, in violation of federal law, are the small size of grants and the regulatory processes required to implement certain aspects of the program, the report says.

The report, which was mandated by the Congress, says that “little has been done in the regulatory or implementation process to convert the goals of the legislation into effective guidelines for states and localities.”

To improve the use of federal funds for secondary vocational education, the report recommends:

Distributing 70 percent of basic grants competitively among schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students;

Distributing 10 percent in a competition among all schools in a state to conduct demonstrations; and

Allowing states to use the remaining 20 percent to develop performance indicators and implement reform plans.

A bill passed by the House last spring would distribute 80 percent of funds directly to the local level, with amounts determined by the size of each district’s poor and handicapped populations. The Senate is expected to begin drafting its bill this month.

Copies of “Summary of Findings and Recommendations” are available without charge from the National Assessment of Vocational Education, Room 3141, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.

The National Science Foundation would award scholarships worth $7,500 annually to college juniors and seniors majoring in mathematics, science, or engineering who agreed to teach for two years at the precollegiate level, under legislation approved by a House committee.

The measure would also authorize scholarships of $5,000 a year to one male and one female college student in such fields from each Congressional district. In addition, awards of up to $7,500 a year would go to juniors and seniors who agreed to attend graduate school in those subjects.

The bill, approved this summer by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is similar to a science-scholarship program proposed by President Bush. But Mr. Bush’s proposal, which would authorize awards of up to $10,000 a year, would be run by the Education Department and would not contain a requirement on classroom service.

The version approved by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in July, which is similar to Mr. Bush’s plan, called for the programs to be run by the Education Department “in cooperation with” the nsf

The House has passed an appropriations bill that would provide $47.5 million to help schools remove asbestos from their buildings--an increase of $7.5 million over this year’s funding level.

Education groups have sought $125 million, the full amount authorized for the program. Since its inception in the early 1980’s, the program has never received its full authorization level.

The House bill also includes $5 million for radon-control efforts: $2 million for state grants, $2 million for radon-mitigation training, and $1 million for an Environmental Protection Agency survey of radon in schools.

The bill does not include funding for a program that helps schools eliminate lead in their drinking water. But the measure allocates $10 million for another lead program that allows states to make grants to a variety of institutions, including schools.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has approved a $330-million youth-service bill that would give the schools a key role in new volunteer programs.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the chairman of the committee, had introduced the bill in July. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

Committee Republicans opposed the measure, arguing that it did not reflect the youth-service proposal unveiled by President Bush in June.

But Mr. Kennedy promised to work with White House aides on the issue once Mr. Bush puts forward his proposal in the form of legislation, probably in October.

The Senate has passed legisla8tion establishing a National Endowment for Children’s Educational Television and authorizing $10 million in fiscal 1990 for children’s educational programming.

The bill requires that programming produced with federal funds be offered for two years to public-television stations, after which the shows could be made available to other broadcasters as long as there were no commercial interruptions.

Comprehensive legislation on literacy has been introduced in the House.

Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who chairs the Education and Labor Committee, has promised hearings this fall on the bill, which is sponsored by Representative Thomas C. Sawyer, Democrat of Ohio.

The measure would encourage coordination of basic-skills programs and boost funding for adult-education programs, workplace-literacy efforts, and Even Start, which supports services for disadvantaged preschoolers and their parents.

In the Senate, similar legislation has been introduced by Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, who has already held hearings.

Edward C. Stringer assumed the post of general counsel in the Education Department last month, following unanimous approval by the Senate.

Mr. Stringer was formerly an officer of the Pillsbury Company, and had served on the boards of several private colleges and the Minnesota Private College Fund.

Also confirmed by the Senate last month was Michelle Easton, who had been serving as deputy undersecretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs under an interim appointment.

In another personnel move, the White House announced last week that Bill R. Phillips, chief of staff to Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, has been named deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The tuition and financial-aid practices of about 20 prestigious colleges and universities are being investigated for possible antitrust violations, the Justice Department has announced.

The department wrote to the institutions this summer requesting information on how they set tuition, student aid, and salaries. Among the institutions that have acknowledged the request for information are Harvard University, the University of Chicago, Colby College, Amherst College, and Tufts University.

Many of the institutions receiving letters are among a group of more than 20 East Coast colleges and universities that have met each spring for many years to share financial-aid information on common applicants. The group, which includes the Ivy League schools, determines a common financial-aid award that will be offered to students, in an effort to avoid bidding wars.

Meanwhile, the College Board has released its annual survey of college costs, which shows that students will be paying 5 to 9 percent more for tuition and fees in the new school year.

The biggest increase will be at four-year private institutions, which will go up 9 percent to an average of $8,737. Students at four-year public colleges will pay an average of $1,694 in tuition and fees, up 7 percent from last year.

A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 1989 edition of Education Week as Capital Digest