Capitol Digest

January 09, 1991 3 min read

The House Education and Labor Committee has released a report describing how widely varying school-spending levels within states have hampered education for students in poor districts.

The 127-page report, commissioned by Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California, in one of his last acts as chairman of the committee, was aimed at arming the panel to attack states’ school-finance inequities.

Mr. Hawkins said the document, which draws heavily on testimony from recent school-finance lawsuits in New Jersey and Texas, provides an important first step toward greater Congressional influence in the school-finance debate.

Mr. Hawkins, who retired this month from the House after 28 years, said he would like to see the Congress focus on state spending inequities because such disparities often erode federal programs, such as Chapter 1, that seek to bolster poor students.

The Agriculture Department has proposed a unified federal and state review system to ensure that schools are properly administering the school-lunch program.

The proposed regulation, which appeared in the Dec. 21 Federal Register, would impose new recordkeeping requirements on schools. It was required by the 1989 law that reauthorized the lunch program.

The new guidelines seek to ensure that schools do not overcount the number of reimbursable meals they serve. In addition, they require states to review 10 new criteria, including whether private companies that run school-lunch programs comply with federal rules and whether schools are meeting federal restrictions on the sale of junk food.

Only about 45 percent of the federal funds earmarked for state and local efforts to promote drug education over the past four years has been spent, according to a report by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The report also found that states had spent about 82 percent of the drug-treatment and prevention grants they received over the past four years, but only 40 percent of the money they received for law-enforcement efforts against drugs.

Overall, the three anti-drug block-grant programs sent $5 billion to the states between October 1986 and June 1990, of which $3.4 billion was spent, the report said.

President Bush has nominated former Representative Lynn Martin, Republican of Illinois, to be secretary of labor.

At the urging of Mr. Bush and other top Republicans, Ms. Martin gave up her House seat last year in order to mount an unsuccessful challenge to Senator Paul Simon.

Ms. Martin follows Elizabeth H. Dole, who took a strong interest in job training and school-to-work is8sues during her two-year tenure at the Labor Department.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee will probably consider Ms. Martin’s nomination in February, an aide said.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether the largest makers of infant formula have been collaborating to raise prices.

Michael Antalics, a deputy assistant director at the ftc, said the investigation began last year after state directors of the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children complained that the infant-formula makers were raising their prices in a uniform way.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has unveiled a new plan to reduce the number of children exposed to lead-based paint.

According to the hud report, which was required by a 1987 law, there are 10 million housing units with lead-based paint that are occupied by families with children under the age of 7, who are at greatest risk for lead poisoning. About 38 percent of those units are occupied by low-income families, the report indicates, estimating that it would cost between $1.9 billion and $2.4 billion to test and abate their homes for lead-based paint.

The report said the department will develop new ways to help low-income families test and abate lead-based paint, and will conduct more research on effective abatement techniques.