Darman Changes Stance On Bush Budget Figures

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Washington--Budget Director Richard G. Darman last week told lawmakers that they should use the Reagan Administration's 1990 spending proposals as a starting point in budget negotiations.

That is a shift in attitude for Mr. Darman, who essentially adopted the position Education Department officials have maintained since President Bush submitted his budget last month.

In addition, the House subcommittee that oversees education appropriations resumed hearings on the education budget that were to continue this week.

Since the sketchy Bush budget plan was submitted on Feb. 9, Education Department officials have contended that the Reagan budget proposals should be treated as Bush proposals.

The Bush plan proposed $441 million in added education spending, most for Presidential initiatives. Department officials said that amount should be added to the $21.9-billion budget submitted by Mr. Reagan.

Office of Management and Budget officials, however, had said that funding levels for domestic programs not mentioned in Mr. Bush's proposal were to be determined in negotiations with the Congress. (See Education Week, Feb. 22, 1988.)

Discretionary education programs are among an array of domestic programs that Mr. Bush proposed freezing at the total 1989 outlay level of $136 billion, without specifying which he would like to increase or cut.

But in a memorandum dated Feb. 16, which was released at last week's Senate appropriations hearing, Mr. Darman told the heads of all execu4tive-branch agencies that the Reagan proposals "are to be treated as if they were the Bush Administration proposals for the purposes of starting the budget process with the Congress."

Mr. Darman did not shift his position publicly until last week, having maintained at a Feb. 23 House Budget Committee hearing that specific funding levels were subject to negotiation.

When Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos appeared before an appropriations panel on Feb. 21, he argued that the Reagan budget was valid, but did not indicate to skeptical lawmakers that the omb was supporting his position. (See Education Week, Feb. 29, 1988.)

Lawmakers applauded Mr. Darman's endorsement of concrete dollar amounts, but noted that adopting the Reagan budget, which would eliminate 24 education programs, would still put domestic-spending totals $2 billion over Mr. Bush's $136-billion outlay ceiling.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education continued its hearings last week with testimony from several Education Department officials, who provided a few details on Mr. Bush's new proposals.

The President's "Merit Schools" plan would be housed in the office of compensatory education, to emphasize the Administration's intent to focus it on schools that serve disadvantaged children, said Beryl Dorsett, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. That office oversees Chapter 1.

The program, for which Mr. Bush requested $250 million in 1990, would reward schools for improvements such as raising students' educational achievement, creating a safe environment, and reducing dropout rates. Department officials said the Administration would submit legislation for the program this month.

Department officials also told the subcommittee that several other Bush initiatives would be housed in the office of educational research and improvement.

They are a $25-million program to encourage states to adopt alternative certification routes for teachers and principals; a program of Presidential awards to outstanding teachers, which Mr. Bush would fund at $7.6 million in 1990; and a $100-million "magnet schools of excellence" program, which would provide grants to districts that want to establish magnet schools for reasons other than desegregation.

Representative William H. Natcher, the subcommittee's chairman, said he "would have some problems" with the "Merit Schools" plan.

"Aren't we going in the wrong direction if we give money to schools that are already successful?" the Kentucky Democrat asked.

Mr. Natcher was also skeptical of the magnet-schools initiative, and predicted that the Congress would ignore the Administration's proposal to eliminate impact-aid payments for so-called "b" children.

The Reagan Administration tried repeatedly to kill that part of the program, which compensates districts with students whose parents either live or work on federal property.

Department officials did not offer any preview of their proposals for vocational-education programs, which are to be reauthorized this year. The Reagan budget requested $942 million without specifying how it would be spent.

Bonnie Guiton, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, said the department's proposal would focus on simplifying the administration of program funds, enhancing accountability, and providing for flexibility in the set-asides.

Ms. Guiton said the department hoped to have its reauthorization proposal to the Congress before March 21, when Mr. Cavazos is scheduled to testify on the subject before the House subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education.

Staff Writer Reagan Walker contributed to this report.

Vol. 08, Issue 24

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