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A total of $70 million for education programs of the National Science Foundation next year has been approved by the House of Representatives, although the House is expected to increase the funding level if the science-and-mathematics improvement bill reaches final passage.

The $1.31-billion appropriations measure for the foundation, approved on June 2, is $23 million higher than the Reagan Administration requested and $233 million higher than the foundation's current budget.

In a report accompanying the bill, the Appropriations Committee said it considered the $70 million a "down payment" on science-education funding, adding that "additional funding recommendations" will be considered later.

No action on the measure has been scheduled in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

After declining by three million students in 1982, participation in the National School Lunch Program has increased by 177,000 during the first five months of the fiscal year 1983. The total number of students now stands at 23.3 million, according to testimony presented to a Congressional subcommittee by the Agriculture Department.

In her testimony to the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, Assistant Secretary Mary C. Jarratt noted also that the number of children who received free meals had increased from 9.9 million to 10.2 million.

That is still fewer than the 10.6 million participants recorded before the Reagan Administration cut about $1 billion from the program's budget.

However, a "good percentage" of those who receive free or reduced-price meals are not eligible for those benefits, Ms. Jarratt said. Citing the results of a recent national evaluation of the program, she said 21.8 percent of the meal applicants received "excess benefits."

Education Department auditors have questioned the expenditure of more than $20 million in federal funds and recommended that half of those funds be returned to the federal government, according to a semi-annual report to Congress by the department's inspector general, James B. Thomas Jr.

Among the largest of the questioned expenditures was $1.2 million in Title I funds spent by the California state education agency and numerous school districts in that state for travel and attendance at conferences and meetings.

Title I funds are earmarked for remedial services for disadvantaged children.

One district--the Compton school district outside of Los Angeles--was cited for "abuse" of the Title I program funds. The district, according to the report, improperly charged the program for $418,000 in costs that included a trip for school officials to Nevada for a grant-proposal-writing seminar, amusement-park tours and a trip to a basketball game for students and adults, and $7,000 in expenses related to a junior-high-school prom.

The report said California had adopted a policy that permitted school systems "complete discretion" in determining whether it was proper to use Title I funds for conferences or meetings.

Vol. 02, Issue 38

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