Bills' Provisions Barring Drug Use for Grant Recipients

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WASHINGTON--Under a number of anti-drug measures being considered by the House, schools and other employers could lose their federal funding if an employee were caught with drugs at work.

A House committee has approved a requirement that participants in the National Science Foundation's precollegiate-education programs, including some public schools, certify that they provide a "drug-free work place.'' Project grants could be revoked if an employee at a participating school were caught with drugs.

The provision's sponsor, Representative Robert S. Walker, Republican of Pennsylvania, has vowed to attach similar language to every appropriations and authorization bill that comes up this year.

If he succeeds in adding it to the spending measure covering the Education Department--and if it survives a House-Senate conference--the provision would apply to every institution and school system receiving federal funds.

That would mean that a school could lose its federal funding, through such programs as Chapter 1 or magnet-schools aid, if an employee were convicted of a drug offense.

While the provision has stirred considerable opposition in the House, members have found it difficult to vote against an anti-drug measure in an election year.

The House voted last week to attach the Walker language to appropriations measures dealing with military construction and energy and water projects.

Mr. Walker has also persuaded committees to adopt it as part of reauthorization bills for the NSF, the National Bureau of Standards, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that have not yet been considered by the full House.

The language states that no funds are to be expended "in any work place which is not free from the illegal possession and use of controlled substances.''

Aides to Mr. Walker said the provision, which will be clarified by accompanying report language, would require grantees and contractors to establish policies forbidding drugs in the workplace.

A 'Good Faith' Standard

Under some versions of the provision, employees would be required to sign pledges not to use drugs and to report any drug convictions to their employer. Aides said, however, that this measure will be suggested, not required.

Mr. Walker's intent is to require federal agencies to cut off funding to any workplace that does not enforce anti-drug policies "in good faith,'' according to aides.

The language says that "if you are a contractor or subcontractor, and an employee of yours is found to be using drugs, that contractor or subcontractor can have their federal money cut off,'' Mr. Walker said in debating one of the provisions.

The Congressman's aides stressed that the requirements would apply only to school or college employees and not to students.

"A school won't lose its federal funds because a student gets caught smoking a joint in the parking lot,'' one aide said.

Aides also said that the "good faith'' standard and appeal procedures to be included in report language would ensure that an entire school or corporation would not be penalized for the "random actions of one rogue employee.''

But House members have argued that the language could indeed result in cancellation of federal contracts for an entire company or research project because of the actions of one employee, even though his employer did not condone those actions.

Representative Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in floor debate that the provision was "unreasonable'' and would essentially require employers to search their employees for drugs.

"To make the contractor responsible if some irresponsible employee comes on the job with a marijuana cigarette, that just makes a mockery of what we are trying to do to control drugs in this culture,'' Mr. Durbin said.

Disdain but Support

Members of the House's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology initially scoffed at Mr. Walker's proposal in considering the NSF and other authorization bills, calling it "a terrible mistake'' and "the seeds of a national disaster.'' But no panel members were willing to vote publicly against an anti-drug measure.

Of the two appropriations amendments he won approval for last week, one passed without a roll-call vote and the other was approved by a tally of 273 to 127.

Isabel Garcia, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, agreed with Mr. Walker's opponents that his provision would "discriminate against innocent teachers and students for the actions of one person.''

"We would definitely be opposed to anything that makes federal funds contingent upon something that conflicts with individual people's rights,'' she added.

"We don't want to see people using drugs in the school environment,'' Ms. Garcia said, but it is inappropriate "to force the local school district to be a police officer.''

Science Officials Pondering

While an appropriations provision could potentially affect far more schools, the NSF legislation is closer to enactment. Moreover, Mr. Walker sits on the committee overseeing the agency and could more easily protect an authorization provision in conference.

Asked whether educators participating in N.S.F. precollegiate programs would be affected by the measure, an NSF official replied, "That's a good question.'' Bassam Shakhashiri, assistant director for science and engineering education at the agency, added that NSF officials had not yet taken a position on the Walker provisions, but would do so once "there is sufficient clarity as to what is involved.''

Under most NSF precollegiate programs, colleges and other research institutions receive grants to train teachers, develop new curricula, or conduct research on teaching and learning, Mr. Shakhashiri said.

While elementary and secondary schools are often involved in testing the results of those projects, or in selecting teachers or students to be trained, this peripheral involvement would not bring them under the purview of the anti-drug provision, said a lawyer on Mr. Walker's staff.

But if schools receive recognition awards or participate with colleges in consortia that receive grants, he said, employees that work on the federally funded projects could be covered.

In addition, employees of education-related organizations that receive NSF awards, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association, would be covered.

The NSF reauthorization bill, HR 4418, would also increase the agency's budget ceiling, now about $1.6 billion, to more than $2 billion. However, higher-education programs would be given priority for $170 million in science-education funds.

An NSF reauthorization bill passed by the full House last fall but not acted upon by the Senate did not give special priority to higher education. That bill earmarked $56 million for teacher training, $42 million of which was to be spent at the precollegiate level. (See Education Week, Oct. 14, 1987.)

A companion Senate bill, S 1632, would provide $125 million for science-education programs, of which $73 million would be earmarked for precollegiate initiatives. The legislation was approved by the Labor and Human Resources Committee last fall and by the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in April.

Vol. 07, Issue 35

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