Deluge of Proposals, Papers Seeks To Influence Clinton Administration

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WASHINGTON--On the eve of President-elect Bill Clinton's inauguration, the stream of policy manifestoes, position papers, and recommendations issued in recent months by lobby groups and think tanks hoping to influence the new Administration has become a flood.

While most of the proposals concentrate on economic policy and industrial productivity, several include discussions of education issues and the importance of education to the nation's economy.

The latest recommendations follow in the wake of a work that many see as a virtual blueprint for the domestic policies of the Clinton Administration--Mandate for Change, a 388-page book issued by the Progressive Policy Institute. The P.P.I. acts as the policy arm of the Democratic Leadership Council, which Mr. Clinton founded and chaired. (See Education Week, Dec. 16, 1992.)

Investment Gap Targeted

Among the numerous other policy proposals unveiled in recent weeks, perhaps the most relevant to education are two reports released last month by a coalition of 34 education associations. In an effort to push education to the forefront of Mr. Clinton's economic agenda, the reports link economic growth and workforce productivity to education.

One of the reports, entitled "Economic Competitiveness and the Human-Capital Investment Gap,'' was written by Jeff Faux, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.

While avoiding policy proposals, the report offers an analysis of changes in education spending and economic productivity.

"Education and training itself can drive change in the business world,'' the report contends.

"The conventional wisdom is that schools should be educating children for the jobs that business needs,'' Mr. Faux argues. "But it also works in reverse. The creations of an educated workforce will change business' options and therefore, its needs.''

The other report, "Investment in Learning: An Assessment of the Economic Return,'' was written by M. Edith Rasell and Eileen Appelbaum of the åŸðŸéŸ

The study seeks to show how economic productivity is dependent on such factors as student readiness to learn at an early age, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, and employment training.

Spending on prenatal care and early-childhood-education programs leads to economic growth and workforce productivity later on, the study suggests.

The report also criticizes government and corporate policymakers for failing to invest more in education and training, but does not offer any specific recommendations.

Head Start and Immunizations

Meanwhile, the Children's Defense Fund's annual report on the state of America's children includes a few policy recommendations for the incoming President and Congress.

Topping the wish list is full funding of the Head Start program. The report also suggests that the program provide full-day, full-year services to aid working parents.

Meeting those objectives would require more money for the program, increasing spending from the current level of $2.8 billion to $13 billion by fiscal 1998, the group estimates.

The C.D.F. report also recommends the immunization of all children and calls on Mr. Clinton to consolidate the purchase of vaccines for all children in federally supported health programs and improve Medicaid coverage of immunizations.

The report projects that an additional $600 million would be needed for a system of universal vaccine purchase and distribution, while an additional $300 million would allow the implementation of immunization-staffing plans already prepared by states and cities.

The report also emphasizes the importance of administering comprehensive services to children and families and providing health care for pregnant women and children.

In addition, it urges approval of new child-welfare and family-preservation programs and efforts to increase wages, expand child-care funding, and reduce taxes for families with children.

Communitarian Agenda

Another set of recommendations has been issued by the Communitarian Network, a Washington-based organization of scholars from across the country who favor efforts "to shore up the moral, social, and political environment.''

In terms similar to those used by Mr. Clinton on the campaign trail, the communitarians describe themselves as backing "balancing rights with responsibilities and cultivating the 'seedbeds of civic virtue': the family, schools, and neighborhoods.''

One of the authors of the communitarian proposal is William Galston, a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland and an adviser to Mr. Clinton during the campaign. Mr. Galston currently is working on developing a plan for the new Administration under which students could receive federal financial aid in exchange for voluntary national service.

In their policy paper, the communitarians criticize parents and society for fostering an unhealthy environment for children and call on Mr. Clinton to fight for legislation to make parents assume more responsibility for raising their children.

Such parental involvement "is a key cornerstone of a civil and moral society,'' the document contends.

The communitarians suggest six months of publicly financed paid leave, and an additional six months of unpaid leave, for at least one parent after the birth of a child, for parents employed by businesses with more than 50 employees.

The communitarians also call for tax changes to benefit families with children and welfare reform that encourages work for participants and flexibility for states and localities.

Another recommendation, put forward by a group called the Community Learning and Information Network, proposes a one-time cash infusion of $100 million to establish a nationwide network of high-performance computers in the schools.

School Computer Network

The computing system would boost education reform in the areas of outcomes assessment, systematic instruction, and quality management, advocates say.

Backers contend the network also would allow for individualized instruction, provide better access to education for traditionally underserved populations, and improve teacher training.

Vol. 12, Issue 16

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