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Massive Trade Measure Clears Conference Panel

Conferees from the House and Senate have completed work on HR 3, a massive trade bill that would authorize more than $500 million in education programs and $1 billion for job training.

Their action sets the stage for final passage of the measure later this month.

In ironing out differences between the versions of the legislation passed by the two houses, the conference committee eliminated some of the most controversial provisions. It deleted, for example, a proposal advanced by Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, that would have required retaliation against countries with trade imbalances unfavorable to the United States.

Despite the removal of that provision and others opposed by the Administration, President Reagan has indicated that he may veto the bill.

Conferees weighing the bill's education provisions cleared up the final sticking points in recent weeks. They agreed, for instance, to drop a proposal by Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, to allow student-loan guarantor agencies to refuse to deal with institutions whose students have high default rates.

House conferees had argued that the issue should be addressed in separate legislation, and several such proposals are pending. The Education Department also plans to issue regulations that would bar institutions with high default rates from the Guaranteed Student Loan program.

The conferees had agreed on most of the bill's education provisions in November. Among other initiatives, the bill would create new vocational-education and literacy programs, and establish offices in the Education Department to oversee literacy efforts and disseminate information on worker-training technologies.

HR 3 would also authorize for one year foreign-language, basic-skills, dropout-prevention, telecommunications, and mathematics and science programs also contained in HR 5, the omnibus education reauthorization bill expected to win final approval this month.

Anti-Drug Bill Includes Student-Survey Provision

A omnibus anti-drug bill introduced in the Congress would require school districts applying for federal drug-education grants to perform detailed surveys of student drug use.

A similar requirement, backed by the Education Department, was rejected by the House-Senate conference panel on HR 5. Among its other reauthorization provisions, HR 5 extends the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act through 1991.

The new legislation--which, in addition to school grants, would provide money for local law-enforcement efforts, drug interdiction, prison construction, and drug rehabilitation--carries a $2.4-billion price tag. It also carries a long list of cosponsors, and aides said it will be the subject of hearings soon.

The bill's education provisions would require districts to report in their grant applications the number of students who use drugs or alcohol, their grade levels, and the types of drugs used. It would also prohibit additional grants for districts that could not show "reasonable'' progress in reducing drug abuse after two years.

Similar provisions were passed last year by the Senate, but conferees on HR 5 adopted less-stringent House-passed language in the reauthorization bill.

Unless altered by a floor amendment, the final version of HR 5 would require districts to report more generally on the extent of their drug problems and to submit progress reports. It would mandate technical assistance for unsuccessful programs, rather than requiring a cutoff of funding.

Vol. 07, Issue 29

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