Legislative Update

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The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee is considering legislation that would require schools to accept students and employees with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The bill, which was the subject of a recent hearing, would prohibit discrimination against aids sufferers and otherwise healthy carriers of the virus unless there was a "material risk" that they could transmit the disease to others. The measure, S 1575, would also fund voluntary testing and counseling programs.

The hearing featured testimony from Clifford and Louise Ray of Arcadia, Fla., whose house was burned after a federal district judged ordered local school officials to enroll their three sons, who have tested positive for the virus.

"This family tragedy confirms everything we know about the need to fight hysteria and fear with education," said Senator Edward F. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who sponsored the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd last week told a gathering of school administrators that he planned to introduce legislation to create a national commission on education reform.

The commission would "give focus to all the many reforms now being discussed" and provide "a blueprint for our legislative agenda in the latter half of the next Congress," the West Virginia Democrat told members of the American Association of School Administrators, who met in Arlington, Va.

Secretary of Education William J. Bennett also addressed the a.a.s.a. conference, repeating his call for reforms that would hold educators accountable for their students' progress.

Mr. Bennett also berated the National Education Association for opposing "accountability" reforms and defended his controversial statement earlier this year that an uncontrollable administrative "blob" is devouring money that would be better spent in the classroom.

"I did not mean superintendents," he said. "I like superintendents."

Mr. Bennett said he sees waste in districts' hiring of increasing numbers of "instructional personnel" who do not teach in the classroom, such as curriculum planners.

The Education Department's political appointees are concentrated in the Secretary's and Undersecretary's offices, according to the General Accounting Office.

In a report released this summer, the g.a.o. found that the department's leadership corps contained the highest percentage of political appointees of any federal agency (See Education Week, Sept. 9, 1987.)

The g.a.o., in a follow-up report requested by the Senate Government Affairs Committee, found that as of March 31, 6 of the department's 19 noncareer managers were assigned to the Secretary's and Undersecretary's offices, with the rest distributed among other offices.

Of 117 "Schedule C" employees--nonmanagerial aides who are not career employees and are appointed noncompetitively--51 work in those two offices.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has greatly improved the way young offenders are handled by the criminal- justice system and should be renewed, juvenile-justice experts told a House panel recently.

"The legislation has been responsible for removing tens of thousands" of delinquent children "from secure detention and additional thousands of youngsters from adult jails," said Luke Quinn, a judge from Flint, Mich., who is chairman of the National Association of Counties' juvenile-justice committee.

The j.j.d.p.a., first authorized in 1974, is set to expire next year. The $70-million program is designed to encourage states to improve their handling of young offenders and finances alternative education and other social services for delinquents. The Reagan Administration has repeatedly recommended eliminating the program.

Adult-education organizations and their allies in the Congress are seeking to reverse a new Defense Department policy that has strengthened preferences for recruits with "traditional" high-school diplomas.

Under the new policy, which took effect April 1, all branches of the armed forces place recruits with various types of equivalency diplomas in a separate category from traditional graduates. Recruits in the so-called "tier two" sometimes must wait longer to enlist and may not be eligible for certain recruitment bonuses.

Previously, each branch of the military made its own rules, with some services grouping recruits with diplomas from adult-education and correspondence courses with high-school graduates.

Adult-education advocates persuaded Representative Thomas C. Sawyer, Democrat of Ohio, to introduce a bill that would reverse the policy for a year while the General Accounting Office studies the issue.

More than half the members of the Senate have added their support to a proposal by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, to revamp the welfare system, and observers say the proposal will easily be approved by the Finance Committee.

The proposal, introduced this summer, would require employers to automatically deduct child-support payments from an absent parent's paycheck and would require many welfare recipients to participate in education or job-training programs. (See Education Week, Aug. 5, 1987.)

The bill has received the backing of 55 Senators, 47 Democrats and 8 Republicans, Mr. Moynihan's staffers say. The bill also has the support of 13 of the 20 members of the Finance Committee, which could act on it by the end of the year. Finance Committee staff members say that hearings on the bill will probably be held this fall.

Legislation proposed in the House last week would require the Federal Communications Commission to limit the number of commercials during television programs for children. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate this summer.

Vol. 07, Issue 03

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