Federal File: Dollars and Darwin; Bell's Foundation; Emergency Repairs

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The coverage of evolution in science textbooks has decreased "dramatically" during the past four years, indicating that "dollars speak louder than Darwin," a spokesman for a national civil-liberties organization told a group of educators at a recent meeting organized by the National Education Association.

According to Barbara Parker of People for the American Way, the reduction in references to the scientific theory is largely due to "conservative" textbook-selection guidelines in Texas, where 10 percent of the nation's texts are purchased.

Those guidelines, she said, "effectively ensure that texts used in Texas will be censored. And that means changes in Texas will extend far beyond state boundaries. What they get in Texas is what you get elsewhere, whether you like it or not."

Recently, Ms. Parker's organization led a successful effort to amend the state's textbook-selection rules to allow concerned citizens--and civil-liberties activists--to speak in favor of textbooks being considered for adoption by the state. Previously, only the viewpoints of book critics were accepted.

The Congress's disinterest last year in Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's plan to turn the Education Department into a foundation may cause the Secretary to propose "something completely different," Mr. Bell said last month.

Speaking at the annual convention of the American Association of School Administrators in Atlantic City, Mr. Bell said that because the President continues to believe that the department is "too powerful," the Secretary will continue to try to make good on a "commitment to him" to reorganize the department.

A $3-billion bill that would allow school districts to hire unemployed workers to repair and renovate school buildings was introduced in the House last week.

The "emergency educational facilities repair and renovation for jobs act," as the measure is called, was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, Mario Biaggi of New York, and Pat Williams of Montana. The proposal would authorize $1.5 billion for elementary and secondary education, $1 billion for postsecondary education, and $500 million for libraries.

"Our schools and libraries are in an increasingly general state of disrepair because money has not been available for needed maintainance and renovations," said Representative Kildee.

Meanwhile, the House last week worked on a $4.6-billion "bipartisan'' jobs-creation bill that could funnel up to $200 million to schools and libraries.

The bill would provide $40 million to help schools build "barrier-free" exits, $60 million for school construction in federal "impact-aid" districts, and another $100 million for library construction and renovation.

The measure would also add $100 million to the federal program that provides summer jobs for youth.

--Tom Mirga and Eileen white

Vol. 02, Issue 24

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