Inspector General Given New Hiring Authority

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Education Department officials have agreed to allow the agency's inspector general to hire lawyers who would be independent of those reporting to Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, averting a Congressional probe of the situation.

Under an agreement reached in July by Inspector General James B. Thomas, General Counsel Edward C. Stringer, and Undersecretary Ted Sanders, Mr. Thomas will be allowed to hire lawyers to assist his office in its fraud, waste, and abuse investigations.

The lawyers' duties will include reviewing legislation, determining whether a matter should be referred for prosecution, and representing the inspector general in discussions with other department offices.

The agreement was signed July 16, just before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee was set to hold a hearing on the matter. (See Education Week, May 2, 1990.)

The accord stipulates that lawyers in the inspector general's office do not represent the view of the department and that any opinions circulated outside the inspector general's office must indicate that they do "not represent the legal position of the Departf Education."

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos and his Mexican counterpart last month signed an agreement establishing closer educational ties between their nations.

The agreement calls for federal officials from the two countries to exchange visits later this year, and for a "border conference" in the winter of 1991 to be attended by educators from the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The agenda for the meetings is to include the teaching of English in Mexico and Spanish in the United States, teacher exchanges, migrant education, educational administration, educational research and innovation, and teacher education.

The agreement also calls for allowing Mexican teachers to enroll in U.S. graduate-school courses, involving Mexican educators in training sessions under the Education Department's mathematics and science program, and developing a cooperative record-transfer system for migrant students.

The pact was signed Aug. 17 by Mr. Cavazos and the Mexican secretary of public education.

The House and a Senate committee this summer approved separate legislation aimed at improving mathematics and science education.

Both bills would establish a national clearinghouse on science education and regional consortia to train teachers and develop materials.

The House bill would also nearly double the funding ceiling for the existing mathematics- and science-education grant program.

The less-costly Senate bill--which would authorize $125 million in new spending, as opposed to $250 million in the House bill--also includes a mathematics and science "teacher corps," an expansion of the National Science Foundation's graduate fellowship program, and a science-scholarship program similar to provisions in an omnibus education bill passed by the House July 20.

The House approved HR 4982 on July 17. The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee approved S 2114 the following day.

Local school districts and states applying for federal dropout-prevention grants would be required to develop plans to improve graduation rates, under legislation passed by the House.

The measure, which was approved in July, authorizes $450 million this year for dropout-prevention efforts through the Chapter 1 program. The measure requires districts that receive such grants to submit annual reports to state officials describing their progress toward cutting their dropout rate.

The bill would also set aside mon programs targeting migrant children, and for disseminating information about successful programs. Money would also be set aside for community vocational programs targeting at-risk youths.

The House Committee on Education and Labor has adopted a $183-million national-service bill that would encourage schools to integrate community service into their curricula.

In addition to funding for school-based community-service programs, the House bill would establish an American Conservation Corps, which would work on conservation projects and urban revitalization, and a Youth Service Corps for youngsters to work in community agencies, nursing homes, and day-care centers.

The bill would also create opportunities for adults to volunteer in schools.

A drop in the number of students participating in the second-largest federal student-loan program could save the government millions of dollars in default payments, a General Accounting Office report suggests.

The volume of Supplemental Loans for Students in the first four months of 1990 totaled about $221 million, compared with $408 million during the same period a year ago, the report says.

The Congress tightened eligibility for the program last year.

High-school students and their parents know little about the cost of attending college and available financial aid, according to a General Accounting Office study.

Such ignorance may lead some students and their families to limit postsecondary options by not considering certain schools, not collecting information on financial aid, or dismissing additional schooling altogether, the report suggests.

Vol. 10, Issue 1

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