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What a difference a year makesMistaken identity

Individual line-items were not the only things to change in the Reagan Administration's record-high fiscal 1989 budget request for the Education Department. In supporting documents, there was also a marked difference from last year to this in the rhetoric concerning the merits of various programs.

A few examples:

Last year, when the department proposed eliminating work-study funds and campus-based supplemental student grants, it said the programs "are, in effect, aid to postsecondary institutions rather than aid to students," form an "obstacle to market competition" among institutions, and "have a clear and direct inflationary impact on institutional prices."

This year, the programs are "important sources of support for financially disadvantaged students," which only need to be reformed to increase institutional accountability.

"It is unnecessary and inappropriate for the federal government to provide grants designed to influence the educational and career choices of individuals," ed argued last year in proposing to eliminate several field-oriented scholarship programs.

That argument reappears once in this year's document, but two of the programs are lauded this time as helping to "encourage excellence in higher education" and "improve the accessibility of graduate and professional education" to disadvantaged students.

"There is no justification for providing support of this magnitude for children who are not currently receiving services," ed contended last year with regard to one-time "bonuses" designed to encourage states to serve more handicapped preschoolers.

This year, the maximum authorized amount is being requested.

"There are programs that are marginal, and in better circumstances they kick over into being defensible," a senior ed official said. "Don't take the catch-phrases like 'inappropriate federal role' too literally."

At last week's "wall chart" news conference, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett wanted to make sure reporters could tell the difference between him and his spokesman, Loye W. Miller.

Mr. Bennett said television networks had recently reported on a statement he made, but showed Mr. Miller reading it.

"Loye threatened to sue for defamation of character," Mr. Bennett said. "I am the Secretary ... until further notice."--jm

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