Capital Digest

June 21, 1995 4 min read

President Clinton has urged Congress to require states to adopt “zero tolerance” laws for underage drivers who drink alcohol.

In his weekly radio address on June 10, the President said that a .02 percent blood-alcohol content--.08 of a point below the standard of .10 that most states set for adults--should constitute illegal intoxication for those under 21. That is the equivalent of one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor, he said.

Mr. Clinton was joined in the White House for the address by members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Driving Drunk, and the American Automobile Association.

Alcohol-related crashes have dropped by as much as 20 percent in states that have adopted such zero-tolerance laws voluntarily, Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton said a new zero-tolerance law would build on an earlier effort to curb underage drinking and driving. At the behest of President Ronald Reagan, Congress in 1984 required states to set a legal drinking age of 21 in order to receive federal highway-construction funding.

President Clinton acknowledged that his recommendation could lead critics to complain about federal mandates. But he argued that “the fight against teenage drunk driving demands national action.”

Father Fans: Just in time for Father’s Day, celebrated June 18, Vice President Gore and a bipartisan group of lawmakers launched separate initiatives last week to promote fatherhood.

Decrying the number of absentee fathers, Mr. Gore said his “Father to Father” program will bring together nongovernmental organizations, businesses, schools, and community leaders to encourage fathers to be strong and positive forces in their children’s lives. The initiative will challenge communities to create task forces to bolster support networks for fathers, for example, as well as recruit men to become involved in school mentoring activities.

Also last week, several members of Congress, including Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., joined sports stars to kick off a public-service-advertising campaign to highlight the importance of fatherhood.

Financed by the Lancaster, Pa.-based National Fatherhood Initiative, the 30-second television announcements will feature sports heroes like San Francisco 49er Joe Montana encouraging men to consider the significance of their roles as fathers.

Marketing Reform: A House Republican task force working on proposals to improve the District of Columbia public schools plans to launch a campaign to market its reform plans.

In a letter this month to fellow task-force members, Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis., the panel’s leader, urged that the group push for enactment of a comprehensive school-reform program before the new school year begins.

“The United States Congress has the moral and constitutional responsibility to guarantee that Washington, D.C., has the world’s premier education system,” Mr. Gunderson wrote.

He called for “very public” hearings that “will be broadly focused so that no one can accuse us of a preordained agenda to be imposed on D.C.”

The plan the task force devises must “be fully explained and marketed” to Congress, residents of the capital, and the nation, he said. Reforms being eyed by the panel include charter schools, private management, and vouchers, as well as changes in more traditional education programs.

Service Benefits: The nation will get a return of up to $2.60 for every federal dollar spent on AmeriCorps, the nine-month-old national-service program championed by President Clinton, a group of economists contend in a recently released report.

Most of the “savings” would come from social costs avoided through work done under AmeriCorps programs, they said at a Washington news briefing earlier this month. For example, intervention to keep at-risk students in school can mean higher wages, and less likelihood that they will end up on welfare or in prison, according to research cited by the four independent economists.

After reviewing three AmeriCorps programs in education and health, they concluded that the gain from such benefits are worth between $1.60 and $2.60 for every federal dollar invested.

The federal cost per member in the three programs ranged from $18,165 to $22,645. That includes living stipends, health care, $4,725 education vouchers, and administrative costs.

“We believe them to be representative of AmeriCorps projects in general,” said Cyrus J. Gardner, a consulting economist on the project. AmeriCorps officials used the report to defend the besieged program before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

Copies of the report can be obtained by calling (202) 606-5000, ext. 277.

Comprehensive Services: The Education Department has issued guidance to help steer schools and districts interested in making use of a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act provision allowing them to use a portion of their funds for efforts to coordinate social, health, and educational services.

The department recently named a working group on comprehensive services to help implement several new laws related to that issue. The E.S.E.A. provision was added when the law was reauthorized last year. More information can be obtained by calling Jeanne Jehl, the executive director of the working group, at (202) 260-1854.

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 1995 edition of Education Week as Capital Digest