Reagan Weighing Much Deeper Education Cuts And Faster Dismantling of Federal Department

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Last week, as President Reagan prepared a national address to win public support for still deeper cuts in domestic spending levels, Administration officials and others were discussing how further cuts should--or could--be made in education programs already slated to shrink by 12 percent in 1982.

Although at mid-week White House aides would not comment on what the President might say about education, some Administration sources suggested that Mr. Reagan is considering plans not only to go further and faster in dismantling the Education Department than Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell recommended this summer, but also to cut another $1.5 billion from the federal education budget for the 1982 fiscal year.

That amount apparently would be over and above the $2.65-billion in new education-program cuts the Administration suggested, in an Office of Management and Budget document released earlier this month, that it would like Congress to make.

With the latest cuts Mr. Reagan is said to be considering, the 1982 federal education budget would be slashed by 23 percent from this year's level, to $11.5 billion.

And, sources said, the President will submit Congress this fall a plan to quickly turn the Education Department into a foundation smaller than that recommended by Mr. Bell in a confidential memorandum delivered to the White House Aug. 4. Most of the department's functions would be spun off to other agencies in the plan Mr. Reagan is now considering,ministration officials said.

The federal education budget would then be reduced further, to a level of $9 billion in 1984, officials said.

In addition to more cuts in programs now under the Education Department's jurisdiction, the package being weighed by Mr. Reagan is expected to include additional reductions in child-nutrition programs. Sources said as much as $500 million would be slashed from the school lunch program.

Mr. Reagan's intentions for the Education Department, as described by the Administration sources, resemble those of a bill now being prepared by Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana. Mr. Quayle reportedly has been negotiating with Administration officials to secure support for his proposal.

Other Congressional reaction to Mr. Reagan's plans was expected to be strong, especially among Democrats and moderate Republicans. At least one member of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Republican Robert Stafford of Vermont, announced his opposition last week when the Administration's plans were still circulating around the capital asrumors.

Mr. Stafford, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, said he would oppose elimination of the Education Department and further cuts in Title I, handicapped education, and student-loan programs.

"I will never agree to any schemes that are designed to turn the federal government's back on our young people," he said. Mr. Stafford added that the President's proposal for additional budget reductions was "less an economy move than a Trojan Horse designed to lead to the destruction of the federal role in education."

An Administration official, who asked not to be identified, said the President was committed to abolishing the Education Department time in 1982, although the final decision had not been made on the structure of the education foundation. The President was reportedly still considering the 91-page memorandum from Secretary Bell, which outlined options for the future of the department.

Mr. Bell had proposed that the Education Department be turned into a foundation, modeled on the structure of the National Science Foundation (nsf).

One Administration official estimated that "90 percent of Mr. Bell's recommendation probably would be followed."

Combination Favored

But another official said the White House "was inclined toward a combination of foundation and dispersal [of education functions among several agencies]."

One characteristic of the nsf is not expected to be imitated in Mr. Reagan's proposed education foundation. The science foundation is governed by a 24-member policy-making board whose members are appointed by the President. The education foundation probably would not include a governing board, but would function with a director and a few assistant directors, officials said.

The foundation's structure was discussed at a meeting last Tuesday between between officials of the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Education Department, sources said.

Mr. Bell refused to comment on the substance of the meeting. "We discussed what the options meantwhat were the implications of each," he said.

Another Administration official, who asked not to be identified, said that there is "disagreement even among the White House staff as to what should be done."

Mr. Quayle's bill would, like the Administration's proposal, house some federal education functions in a small foundation. But Mr. Quayle would assign responsibility for most programs to other agencies.

His proposal would transfer to other Cabinet-level agencies financial assistance for college students, Indian education programs, the Institute of Museum Services, and veterans' education programs--changes Mr. Bell also advocated.

Senator Quayle is also considering these changes:

Sending handicapped education and rehabilitation services programs to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Combining the National Institute of Education with the National Science Foundation.

Transferring the National Center for Education Statistics, and perhaps the Census Bureau, to the Commerce Department.

Reorganizing the bilingual-education and vocational-education programs, and possibly moving them to other federal agencies.

The Senator's "main objective is to simplify the administration [of federal education programs] and reduce the overhead costs," the aide said.

Mr. Quayle was scheduled to meet with Secretary Bell last Thursday. The aide said the Senator may introduce his bill sometime this week.

Vol. 01, Issue 04

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