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A coalition of education groups urged President Reagan last week to sign an omnibus education bill to reauthorize impact aid, the Women's Education Equity Act, the National Center for Education Statistics, and programs in adult, bilingual, and migrant education.

Capitol Hill observers speculated last week that President Reagan might resort to a "pocket veto" to kill both this omnibus bill, S 2496, and the $7-billion Head Start reauthorization, which also included authorizations for more than $200 million in new education programs and provisions for latchkey children.

At the end of a session of Congress, the President can veto a bill by failing to sign it within 10 days--excluding Sundays--after he receives it from the Congress. This is called a pocket veto.

According to a White House spokesman, President Reagan had until Monday of this week to sign the Education Amendments of 1984 but had not received the Head Start reauthorization as of last Tuesday.

At a press conference, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the National pta, the American Council on Education, the Council of Great City Schools, and several other groups urged President Reagan to sign the omnibus bill.

If he vetoes S 2496, impact aid would be slashed severely, but the other programs--including Indian education, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and assistance for the Virgin Islands and for teacher training--would be reauthorized automatically for one year.

Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell said last week that he plans to appoint a task force to study the problems affecting elementary schools.

The Secretary announced at a news conference honoring elementary-school principals that he will appoint a panel of educators next month to begin focusing on elementary education.

"I want to take advantage of this forum to announce that I plan to name a task force to look into the condition of education in our elementary schools," Secretary Bell said. "The task force will develop recommendations that should contribute significantly to the national discussion for improving the quality of education from kindergarten through the 8th grade."

Mr. Bell also said, according to an Education Department spokesman, that while the department encourages states and local districts to take the lead in renewing elementary education, "we want to contribute all we can."

Federal funds for impact aid and vocational- and compensatory-education programs in urban schools fell sharply between 1979 and 1983, according to a report released last week by the Council of Urban Boards of Education (cube), a component of the National School Boards Association.

But during the same period, federal funds for handicapped students and school-lunch programs increased slightly, noted the survey of 41 of cube's 70 urban school systems.

Urban schools have "found themselves in a position of doing more with less" and have been "disproportionately hurt" as a result of reductions in federal education spending, according to the report, "The Impact of Reductions in Federal Educaton Expenditures."

It estimated that the federal share of urban school districts' budgets fell by 4 percent between 1979 and 1983.

The results of the survey are intended to be used as a lobbying instrument, according to cube officials.

Among the findings: Impact aid to 31 districts fell, and fell by at least 75 percent in 15 districts; Chapter 1 funds for compensatory education fell an average of 16 percent in the 29 districts that reported declines; vocational-education funds dropped in 21 districts by an average of 29 percent.

Officials of half of the urban districts responding to the survey said state funds make up a larger proportion of their operating budgets now than in 1979, and officials of 27 districts said their local governments had increased their share of school budgets.

In the 98th Congress's harried final days, the $500,000 appropriation for a national summit conference on education simply "dropped through the cracks," according to a Senate aide. (See Education Week, Aug. 22, 1984.)

Funds for the conference--which supporters hope will be held in late summer 1985--are going to be requested next spring in the fiscal 1985 supplemental appropriation, according to Congressional aides.

The key negotiators on the education portion of the catchall funding measure for fiscal 1985, seeking to avoid any possible stumbling blocks to the bill's passage, decided not to include the funds "and see what hap-pens," said an aide to Senator Lawton Chiles, Democrat of Florida. Senator Chiles offered the funding amendment to the continuing resolution.

Senator Lowell P. Weicker, a Connecticut Republican and the lead Senate negotiator, had agreed to the amendment but acceded to a request by the key House negotiator, Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky, to drop the proposal, according to Congressional aides.

The education summit, authorized in the vocational-education package approved earlier this month, would include 200 participants--teachers, parents, students, state and local education officials, teacher-training leaders, and representatives of business and organized labor.

Vol. 04, Issue 08

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