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The Education Department moved a step closer to winning Congressional acquiescence for two controversial proposals last week when the Senate Appropriations Committee declined to support measures to block changes to the National Diffusion Network and Desegregation Assistance Centers. (See Education Week, Sept. 9, 1987.)

The panel's House counterpart included language in the report accompanying its fiscal 1988 spending bill that instructs the department to continue funding 40 specialized civil-rights centers, rather than the 10 regional "supercenters" it created4with a recent change in regulations.

When that appropriations bill was approved by the full House, members also inserted discussion into the Congressional Record indicating their support for language that would prohibit the department from adding a "program significance panel" to the review process for the n.d.n.

Similar prohibitions were included in the report on HR 5, the bill passed by the House that would reauthorize a long list of education programs, including the n.d.n.

No restricting language relating to either program was included in the report on the Senate's appropriations measure, which was released last week. And an aide said the report that will accompany S 373, the Senate's omnibus reauthorization bill, will not incorporate the n.d.n. prohibitions either.

"We understand that the department has carefully revised the regulations," said Ann Young, an aide to Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, referring to changes made in the original n.d.n. plan that critics viewed as a minor improvement.

"We share the same concerns the House had about the original proposal and are monitoring" the situation, she said.

Water suppliers will be required to tell their customers about the health dangers associated with lead, under new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last week.

The regulations also require suppliers to monitor levels of lead in their drinking water and to notify the public if the lead content exceeds the epa standard of 50 parts per billion.

Lead has been found to cause brain damage and other physical problems, especially in children and fetuses.

Craig Vogt, deputy director of the agency's drinking-water-standards division, said the agency was also considering toughening its standard for acceptable levels of lead in water. He said a new standard, of 20 parts per billion or less, would be proposed early next year.

The Education Department has hired a consulting firm to study postsecondary proprietary institutions to determine whether students and taxpayers get what they pay for.

"This study will look at what some of the claims are at these institutions, and what the realities are," said Bruce M. Carnes, the department's deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation.

Mr. Carnes added that the study is part of the department's ongoing efforts to reduce defaults on federal student loans and improve the quality of higher education.

Recent studies have indicated that some proprietary institutions have default rates on Guaranteed Student Loans of greater than 60 percent. One reason students default on loans, Mr. Carnes suggested, is that they are "dissatisfied with the quality of the product they are getting."

The $90,000 study, being conducted by Pelavin Associates, a Washington-based firm, is expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 1988.

Vol. 07, Issue 06

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