Federal File: To the Streets?; Will, Waiting; Bilingual Brouhaha

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The Reagan Administration, launching its campaign last week to sell the Chapter 1 voucher idea to inner-city residents, apparently targeted the wrong audience.

Undersecretary of Education Gary L. Bauer spoke to a predominantly black audience of several dozen at the Academic Enrichment Center, an independent storefront preschool and elementary school here, emphasizing the Administration's desire to empower poor and minority urbanites--those who need choice the most, he said.

The parents enthusiastically supported the idea of federal tuition assistance for their children's private-school education. But they quickly noted that they would not be the ones to benefit from a voucher for remedial education--which is what the $3.7-billion Chapter 1 program finances. "Our children are overachievers, not underachievers," several parents said.

Some parents also expressed skepticism about the Administration's stated intentions--one suggested that the plan might be simply a ploy to support private segregationist academies--and about the wisdom of leaving decisions up to the often troubled families with "educationally disadvantaged" children.

To take the money out of the public schools and give it to such families may "be throwing good money after bad," commented Cheryl Gillette, a public-school teacher who has enrolled her 2nd-grade daughter in the private school.

The Washington-based National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, which sponsored the meeting, plans to sponsor others in big cities to build support for vouchers; the next one is tentatively planned for Philadelphia.

Gilbert A. Bliton, Indiana's long-time state special-education director, is taking his time deciding whether or not to accept Madeleine C. Will's offer to become the federal government's chief special-education official.

Ms. Will, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, in October offered Mr. Bliton the post of director of the Education Department's office of special-education programs, according to the Indiana official, who has been his state's special-education director for about 15 years.

Mr. Bliton said in an interview last week that he has put his decision about the job "on the back burner" but that he expects to let Ms. Will know within the month.

The osep post has been filled temporarily by Patricia Guard since Wendy Cullar left earlier this year.

At the insistence of House conferees, the report accompanying the compromise fiscal 1986 appropriations bill for the Education Department will not mention Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's bilingual-education initiative.

To the dismay of some, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Mark O. Hatfield, had inserted language in the Senate report praising Mr. Bennett's efforts.

--jh & at

Vol. 05, Issue 14

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