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Secretary of Education William J. Bennett has announced the availability of $2 million in federal funds to help principals overcome bureaucratic "inertia" that may be blocking a successful war against drug abuse in their schools.

Mr. Bennett announced the new grant program last month in a speech before the White House Conference for a Drug-Free America in New York City.

"If the forces of inertia or unresponsive local and state education bureaucracies are standing in the way of getting drugs out of a school," he said, "we stand ready to help." Such assistance is available, he said, by calling the Education Department at (202) 732-3566.

Kevin Childers, a department spokesman, said the money will come from the Secretary's discretionary funds for the 1988 fiscal year.

The department also recently awarded $5 million in grants for the production of 30 videotapes targeting anti-drug messages to students. The video-production awards represented the last of $200 million in federal money set aside for education under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986.

The nation's health and foster-care systems are ill prepared to deal with a "potential avalanche" of cases of pediatric aids, according to a new Congressional report.

The number of children under 13 who have the fatal disease will increase 350 percent by 1991, rising from 691 such cases currently to 3,000 or more, warns the report by the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families. Children in that age group now represent fewer than 2 percent of the total number of cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Most of the new cases will be infants born to infected mothers, according to the report, "A Generation in Jeopardy: Children and aids." Such infants, it says, are often abandoned by their parents or orphaned.

"Our currently overloaded social-service systems will be stretched to their limits," predicted Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the committee. "It means reduced levels of care for aids and non-aids children alike."

Louisiana should return $12 million to the federal government and Virginia should repay about $1.2- million because they received more Chapter 1 aid in 1982 and 1983 than they were entitled to, an Education Department audit has concluded.

The compensatory-education funds are based in part on state per-pupil expenditures, and the two states submitted inaccurate data on such spending to the federal agency, according to a semiannual report to the Congress by the department's inspector general.

Among the report's other findings:

California officials failed to document work funded by $1.5 million in Chapter 1 aid and $415,000 in vocational-education grants.

Hawaii improperly used $690,000 in special-education funds for general instructional expenses.

Texas delayed awarding special-education funds to school districts and, as a result, $2.5 million could not be used within federal time limits.

Overall, the department questioned the use of $151.3 million in audits conducted between April and September of last year, the period covered by the report, and recovered $15.7 million.

Emerson J. Elliott and Barry S. Bontemps, both long-time officials in the Education Department, were among 58 senior civil servants who received Distinguished Presidential Rank awards last week from President Reagan. The awards, the highest civil-service honor, come with $20,000 cash bonuses.

Mr. Elliott is director of the center for education statistics. Mr. Bontemps retired recently as director of the department's grants and contracts service.

Richard Hastings, director of debt collection and management assistance for the office of postsecondary education, was one of 267 federal employees to receive lesser honors and a $10,000 check. He received the Presidential Rank award in 1984.

Senator Lawton Chiles, a Florida Democrat who has been an influential advocate for increased education funding, has announced that he will retire at the end of his current term.

Mr. Chiles, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations subcommittee, made a surprise announcement in late December that he would not seek re-election next November.

Next in line for chairmanship of the Senate budget panel, if the Democrats retain control of the chamber following this year's election, are Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina, J. Bennett Johnston Jr. of Louisiana, and James R. Sasser of Tennessee.

The Congress took time out from budget deliberations last month to give educators some curricular advice.

In two resolutions that do not have the force of law, the legislators urged schools to provide "quality daily physical-education programs'' and ensure that all students have an adequate knowledge of the nation's "founding documents," such as the Constitution, before graduating from high school.

The Education Department's office for civil rights has produced three videotapes that outline the rights of handicapped students.

One of the tapes focuses on elementary and secondary education, one on postsecondary education, and the third on how federal anti-discrimination laws apply to employment and education at all levels.

The tapes recount actual experiences of handicapped students and include discussions of available resources and what parents and students should expect from schools.

The tapes are available from the ocr's Washington and regional offices.

Vol. 07, Issue 15 & 16

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