Hawkins Eyes More Education Funds Despite Pressure To Reduce Budget

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Washington--In sharp contrast to the widespread expressions of concern in the new 99th Congress over the federal budget deficit, the new chairman of the House panel that approves all education-related legislation last week signaled his intent to champion spending growth.

"There's a good case to be made for spending more on education," said Representive Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee.

In an interview last week, Representative Hawkins said he opposes any cuts in federal education spending. A freeze in most precollegiate-education programs, which the Administration is expected to propose, is "the least we hope to do," he added.

As the 99th Congress convened Jan. 3, Representative Hawkins began his first full term as chairman of the committee, a post he assumed last August after the unexpected death of its longtime leader, Representative Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky.

Representative Hawkins said education spending is a "cost-effective'' way for the government to use its money. Moreover, programs such as compensatory education and Head Start, he said, are "vital for us to progress as a nation."

Focus on the Budget

In the next few months, Republican and Democratic leaders have said, the Congress's top priority will be to reduce the deficit, which the Administration and the Congress both project will top $200 billion in fiscal 1986 and subsequent years.

In an unprecedented move, Sen-ate Republicans last week began writing their own budget in advance of the release of President Reagan's proposals, because, they said, the Administration plan would fail to cut the deficit enough.

The President's budget will be released Feb. 4; Republican Senate leaders said they hoped to complete their proposals by Feb. 1.

The senators are said to be considering a number of options regarding education spending.

According to Dallas Martin, executive director of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, these include an across-the-board spending freeze at current levels, a 3- to4- percent cut, and a cut of up to 10 percent.

An aide to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, who missed last week's initial budget session because he was out of town, said that discussions were still at a preliminary stage and that Senator Hatch had asked subcommittee chairmen for recommendations.

"The ball is in Stafford's court," said the aide, referring to Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont and chairman of the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities.

Because senators will be "preoccupied intensely" with budget matters, they are likely to pay little attention to other education issues in the coming months, according to Betsy Brand, an aide to Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana, a member of the education subcommittee.

Creativity Said Threatened

Such attention to frugality could "work to the disadvantage of education" since it will discourage creative solutions to problems facing education, suggested S. Gray Garwood, an aide to Representative Pat Williams, Democrat of Montana, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Hearings in both the House and Senate on reauthorization for higher-education programs, which Congressional aides call the major education issue in the 99th Congress, are not expected to begin until late spring.

As part of their action on the higher-education measures, House and Senate committees also plan to hold hearings on reauthorization of the National Institute of Education.

Staff members of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee are in the preliminary stage of an investigation of alleged improprieties at nie

Ms. Brand also said that because the 98th Congress completed action on much pressing education business, "there's not a lot left to do now."

Among other things, legislators last fall reauthorized programs for impact aid, vocational and adult education, bilingual education, migrant education, and the National Center for Education Statistics, and passed new legislation encouraging top students to become teachers and establishing a program of federal merit scholarships. (See Education Week, Oct. 10 and 17, 1984.)

Hawkins's Plans

Outlining his priorities for the coming Congress, Representative Hawkins said he would reintroduce a modified version of the American defense education act, a multibillion-dollar measure heavily promoted by the National Education Association but criticized last year by the Reagan Administration and some Democrats as a "budget-buster."

The legislation, S 177, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Gary Hart, Democrat of Colorado, on Jan. 3. (After convening for the day, the Congress again went into recess until after the Jan. 20 Presidential inauguration.)

But Representative Hawkins said he would not introduce his version of the bill until his panel's Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, which he also chairs, completes a series of hearings outside 'Washington next month.

The committee has scheduled hearings in New Orleans on Feb. 14, in Los Angeles on Feb. 16, and in New York City on Feb. 19.

Representative Hawkins said he intends the sessions to provide "grass-roots" comment on a broad range of topics, including most of the major education issues facing the 99th Congress: the American defense education act; the reauthorization of higher-education programs; his own bill to promote effective schools; questions of excellence versus equity; teacher-training programs; and the range of federal education programs.

Familiar Issues

A number of education-related issues facing the 99th Congress were also controversial topics of debate in the 97th and 98th Congresses. These include:

The Civil Rights Act of 1985. This bill, which supporters intend to introduce when the Congress reconvenes, will be similar to the major civil-rights bill that failed in the closing days of the 98th Congress.

Its purpose will be to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's February 1984 decision in Grove City College v. Bell, which held that the federal law against sex discrimination applies only to specific programs and activities that receive federal aid and not to whole institutions. Similar language is contained in statutes barring discrimination on the basis of race, age, and handicap.

Advocates of the measure want to broaden civil-rights protections to entire institutions that receive federal aid. But opponents believe that such a law would impose an excessive regulatory burden on state and local governments and private institutions.

President Reagan recently endorsed a compromise measure, which would limit the new law to educational institutions. This is similar to a compromise approved by Administration officials last year but rejected by Democrats.

School prayer. A constitutional amendment and a bill have already been introduced in the Senate to restore voluntary prayer in schools. But aides say Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, remains poised, as he was during the last session, to filibuster any legislative attempt to pass a school-prayer bill.

Tuition tax credits. Congressional aides say that tuition tax-credit legislation is sure to be reintroduced in this Congress, but, said one Republican Senate aide, the "revenue loss" resulting from such a bill further dims its chance for passage.

Tax-credit legislation failed overwhelmingly in the Senate in the previous session.

Vol. 04, Issue 17

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