Bush Said Weighing A New 'Family Act'

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Washington--A group of Republican lawmakers plans to introduce a package of legislative proposals dubbed the "American Family Act" that Congressional sources say could become a fixture of Vice President George Bush's Presidential campaign.

The package includes new grant programs to aid school districts experimenting with school-based management, open enrollment, and character education.

Some proposals in the "Family Act" have already been introduced as legislation, and the others are to be introduced this week.

Mark Souder, minority staff director for the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, said he and his staff have worked with the Bush campaign on the package, but that the campaign has not committed itself to supporting all the legislation in it.

"We are working together, but while we are working on pieces of legislation that have to stand, they can be more general," Mr. Souder said. "What Congress is doing is trial-ballooning pieces for both sides."

The package, obtained in draft form by Education Week, includes the college savings-bond proposal already touted by Mr. Bush, as well as a child-care tax-credit plan similar to the one Mr. Bush has described; it has already been introduced by Representative Tom Tauke, Republican of Iowa.

The draft also contains proposals dealing with such issues as child-support enforcement and youth gangs.

current Bush theme: It would require schools receiving grants under the initiative to "include the Pledge of Allegiance as part of [their] daily program." She said the package would probably not be announced until after the first Presidential debate next month, as campaign aides are busy preparing for the showdown with Mr. Dukakis.

Education-related initiatives in the package include:

Character-education grants. Touting the programs as an antidote to "the decline of time-tested values," the draft advocates providing $500,000 to the Education Department to be used in addition to discretionary funds it says have been spent on such programs by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. An additional $100,000 would fund dissemination of model programs to schools.

A school-based-management initiative. To combat "stagnant and inflexible school organization," this proposal would provide up to $50 million, divided among states by population, for grants to schools experimenting with innovative decisionmaking structures.

Open-enrollment grants. The money would aid districts that allow parents to choose the schools their children attend. This $50\million proposal mirrors a program that was contained in the Senate version of this year's omnibus education reauthorization bill but dropped in conference.

"Bootstrap schools." This proposal would provide up to $450 million to "schools with low-income or minority enrollments" to fund "creative and innovative proposals to improve educational quality." Mr. Bush has made a similar, more general, proposal.

"State educational agencies would select applicants that most effectively meet the criteria, including parental choice and school-based management/shared decisionmaking," according to the draft.

Funding for early-intervention programs for disadvantaged children. This $10-million initiative would grant start-up funds for programs providing an array of social services, including preschool education.

The proposal virtually duplicates the "comprehensive child-development centers" program added to the omnibus reauthorization bill by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Both Mr. Kennedy and the draft cite as inspiration the Beethoven Project, a pioneering Chicago program.

A group of initiatives to provide "parenting education" to at-risk families. At least three $50,000 demonstration projects would be funded in each state, in addition to 20 $75,000 "creative outreach" projects in high-risk areas. Additionally, the proposal would fund dissemination of information on two existing programs in Missouri and Minnesota that are cited as exemplary.

Staff Writer Reagan Walker contributed to this report.

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