Capital Digest

March 06, 1991 3 min read

President Bush’s plan to consolidate a bevy of domestic programs into a $15-billion block grant would cause a $27.4 billion shortfall for states over five years if they continue to fund the programs at their current levels, according to a report by the Senate Budget Committee.

“The only conclusion that can be drawn from these statistics is that the Administration’s much vaunted new block grant is a back-door way of cutting programs,” the committee said.

The report noted that federal support for state and local governments declined in constant dollars from $105.9 billion in 1980 to $93.4 billion in 1989, and that 28 states expect funding shortfalls this year.

Mr. Bush’s block-grant proposal includes $1.9 billion in Education Department programs, such as category “b” impact-aid payments for children whose parents live on or work at federal installations, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Chapter 2 block grants, and aid for public libraries.

The report said the President has not offered a strong argument for creating the new block grant and has not explained why the various programs were chosen for consolidation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has launched a campaign against the illegal manufacture, distribution, and possession of steroids.

The Department of Health and4Human Services concluded in a report last year that more than 250,000 teenagers use steroids, which are closely related to the male sex hormone testosterone, to improve their athletic performance or appearance.

In large doses, steroids have been linked with heart disease, liver problems, stunted growth, and overly aggressive behavior. Although steroids can be legally prescribed by doctors for a small number of disorders, most teenagers buy the drugs on the black market.

Under a 1990 federal law that took effect last month, convicted steroid traffickers could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Those possessing small amounts of steroids not precribed by a doctor could be sentenced up to one year in prison and fined a minimum of $1,000.

The Education Department has temporarily suspended a rule requiring all applicants to postsecondary-education institutions to pass a test demonstrating that they would benefit from such schooling.

Students seeking federal financial aid will still be required to pass a test. But, the department said, schools will not be penalized if students who do not seek aid do not take a test.

The Congress last fall ordered the department to limit student-loan fraud, and it responded by requiring all applicants to postsecondary institutions to pass an “ability to benefit” test.

Community colleges in Tennessee and California have challenged the department rule. A California judge has enjoined the department from enforcing its rule in that state until June 30.

The department said its revised rule will remain in effect until June 30. It said it hopes the court challenges will be settled by then.

The head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division has pledged to help return control of public schools “to local authorities where the aims of desegregation have been achieved.”

John R. Dunne, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, also said he would work “with other litigants to design more effective plans where [desegregation] aims remain unfulfilled.”

Mr. Dunne comments came late last month in a three-page analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s January decision in Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell. The Court ruled that school districts that were once segregated by law may be freed from court-ordered desegregation plans if they have done their best to eliminate the vestiges of their discriminatory systems and have met court orders. (See Education Week Jan. 23, 1991.)

Mr. Dunne heralded the Court’s ruling as a reaffirmation of the primacy of local control over education.

He said that “it imposes real costs on a school system to continue desegregation plans beyond the time that desegregation has already been achieved, and, for many, it will make sense to adopt a different approach.”

Some concepts may include neighborhood schools, magnet schools, or choice plans, combined with the dissolution of remaining court orders, he said.

“One option that is not available, of course, is deliberately designing any system so that children are separated because of their race,” Mr. Dunne said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Capital Digest