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Federal officials last week gave employers, including public schools and colleges, an additional three months in which to determine whether they offer unequal fringe benefits to different categories of employees.

The determination is required under Section 89 of the 1986 tax-re4form law, which seeks to discourage discrimination in fringe benefits by making more generous benefits offered to upper-level employees subject to taxation.

Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady announced that the Internal Revenue Service would give schools and colleges until Oct. 1, instead of July 1, to determine whether their fringe benefits are unevenly distributed between higher-paid employees and other workers.

Representative Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House8Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation to simplify the determination process. His panel held hearings on the issue last week.

The Senate last week approved legislation providing federal funding for the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, after defeating an attempt to restrict the panel's ability to influence school curricula.

The bill, similar to one already passed by the House, authorizes $300,000 a year for five years for the commission.

Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, offered the amendment barring the commission from exerting "any direction, supervision, or control" over the curriculum, administration, or selection of instructional materials in any educational institution.

The amendment was "intended to prevent the situation where a federally funded, understandably biased organization may attempt to direct, supervise, or control the curriculum," Mr. Helms said.

But sponsors of the bill, who argued that the commission has no authority over local schools, easily turned the amendment aside.

The Senate approved, however, an amendment offered by Mr. Helms to bar the commission from providing training in protest demonstrations.

Youth programs authorized by the Job Training Partnership Act should be consolidated, an advisory panel has recommended.

Currently, youth programs are authorized under two sections of the jtpa Most programs focus on providing summer employment for disadvantaged teenagers.

But a more comprehensive approach providing intensive, year-round preventive and remedial services to in-school and out-of-school youths is needed, panel members argued. They recommended that a separate youth title be created within the law, with a $500-million increase in federal funding.

The committee also called for concentrating j.t.p.a. resources on the most needy, offering more individualized services, and expanding4public-private partnerships.

New audio tapes provide visually impaired students with information on federal student-aid programs' eligibility and application procedures.

The cassettes, produced by the Education Department, also discuss scholarships offered to blind students and the civil rights of handicapped students. Copies are available without charge from the Federal Student Aid Center, P.O. Box 84, Washington, D.C. 20044.

A commission appointed by Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole last week began a series of hearings on the issue of workforce quality.

The hearings are to focus on strategies for meeting the educational needs of the labor supply, including training for at-risk youths and other disadvantaged people.

The Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency is scheduled to present its policy recommendations to Secretary Dole on Labor Day.

Education is "perhaps the most prominent area where our nation's shortcomings threaten to impose enormous long-term costs," according to a report by the Joint Economic Committee.

The Congressional panel argued in its annual report on the economy that soaring dropout rates and declining enrollments in higher education must be turned around if the nation is to continue to grow.

"A skilled work force is a prerequisite for long-term economic growth," the report said.

Vol. 08, Issue 33

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