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Cuts Said To Imperil Child-Immunization Effort

By James Hertling & Elizabeth Rose — March 19, 1986 3 min read


The first round of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cuts, made March 1, will eliminate funds to vaccinate some 65,000 children this year, and future cuts under that law may jeopardize the immunization protection of hundreds of thousands more, according to Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health and environment subcommittee.

Speaking at a hearing on childhood immunization last week, Mr. Waxman, a California Democrat, said President Reagan’s proposed 1987 budget would eliminate shots for 400,000 children next year because it does not factor in the rising cost of vaccines.

“I cannot comprehend how anyone can oppose adequate funding for polio or measles vaccinations,” Mr. Waxman said.

Before Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, the Reagan Administration had proposed an increase of $300,000 in the vaccination-grants program, from $47.4 million in 1986 to $47.7 million. But a Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cut in fiscal 1987 would reduce the appropriation by $2 million

Critics of Mr. Reagan’s proposal, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say the inadequacy of the appropriation is exacerbated by the skyrocketing cost of vaccines.

The cost of fully immunizing a child has risen from about $6 in 1980 to more than $30 in 1986, according to Mr. Waxman’s testimony, and vaccine prices are expected to jump another 50 percent in 1987

Schools require students to be vaccinated before they enroll, and have been able to enforce the requirement for disadvantaged students because the federal government subsidizes the cost of the vaccines.

Officials of the nine federally funded education-research laboratories are prepared to return 2.74 percent of their $17 million fiscal 1986 budget to the Education Department, said a spokesman for a coalition that represents the labs.

The spokesman, E. Joseph Schneider, executive director of the Council for Educational Development and Research (CEDAR), added that the $459,000 in funding would be returned with the suggestion that it be used for a companion piece to the publication “What Works” aimed at school professionals.

It was unclear last week whether use of the funds for such a companion piece was a condition for returning the money. But, said Mr. Schneider, “we could probably satisfy everyone with the proposal.”

“What Works,” a recently released department report, contains advice for school improvement generally directed at laymen.

Initially, the department had only asked centers to return money. Officials modified their position because the $13-million budget for centers, they decided, had already been reduced by the required 4.3 percent. The savings came out of funds earmarked for centers but not awarded in fiscal 1986 grants.

To prevent further erosion of the centers’ funds, and particularly the budget for research in teaching, the department asked the labs early last week to return “voluntarily” the $459,000.

It became increasingly clear last week that writing a fiscal 1987 budget under the shadow cast by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law will be an unusually difficult process.

Private negotiations between the Republican chairman and the senior Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee forced the committee to cancel most of its mark-up sessions last week.

But the talks broke down, and the chairman, Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, ultimately offered his own plan, which would freeze many domestic programs—including school aid—but allow an increase at the inflation rate for defense and raise about $16 million in new revenues.

The resolution sets nonbinding spending and revenue targets. But because of the urgency lent the budget process by Gramm-Rudman-Hollings—which mandates a $144-billion 1987 deficit ceiling—the resolution could be the most influential budget-policy guide in the Congress, said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

The Democratic-controlled House, in a partisan display, last week voted to formally reject President Reagan’s 1987 budget proposal. But the House Budget Committee has not begun writing its own resolution

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Bob Packwood, Republican of Oregon, unveiled his plan to reform the federal tax code last week.

It limits the deductibility for state and local taxes and contains other provisions, particularly those changing the tax status of municipal bonds, affecting educators.

A version of this article appeared in the March 19, 1986 edition of Education Week


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