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The House last week passed and sent to President Clinton legislation to extend through 1994 the state-level assessments under the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

NAEP in 1990 conducted the first-ever state-level assessment, testing 8th graders in 37 states in mathematics. In 1992, the federally funded program administered tests in 42 states in 4th- and 8th-grade math and in 4th-grade reading.

Under the bill, which passed unanimously in the House May 11 and in the Senate April 21, the project will be expanded in 1994 to include 4th, 8th, and 12th graders in both subjects.

A bill introduced in the House would expand the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to include educational institutions.

The "national competitiveness act,'' introduced by Rep. Tim Valentine, D-N.C., would also establish partnerships between private enterprises and educational institutions to insure that American workers, particularly young people, acquire the skills needed to compete in the workplace.

President Clinton and Congressional Democrats have agreed on a proposal to reform the way political campaigns are financed that would restrict the influence of political-action committees, including those of the national teachers' unions.

The Democrats' plan would restrict contributions to candidates by PAC's and restrict the ability of the national political parties to raise and spend "soft money,'' which need not comply with federal contribution limits.

At the heart of the proposal are overall campaign-spending limits and limited public financing for candidates who comply with the limits. The bill, which the White House estimates would cost $150 million per election cycle, is similar to one vetoed by President Bush last year.

Although the measure is expected to receive overwhelming Democratic support, it is likely to be the target of a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

At a hearing on education programs, members of a Senate appropriations panel from both parties last week criticized the Clinton Administration for failing to suggest how to cut the budget to comply with statutory restrictions.

"Unless you and your colleagues make some tough choices, you're going to lose [President Clinton's] investment package,'' said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

While he did not say so directly, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley hinted that the panel might find the needed cuts in other programs under their jurisdiction.

Secretary Riley last week outlined the Administration's proposal for amending the Chapter 1 program.

In an appearance at the National Press Club, Mr. Riley said the proposal will focus on more narrowly targeting funds to the neediest schools; increasing schools' flexibility in using the funds to address the needs of "the whole child''; coordinating with other federal programs; and encouraging alternatives to "pullout'' programs that remove disadvantaged students from class for remedial help.

He also pledged that his agency would be "media friendly,'' and announced that he would hire Kathryn Kahler, a reporter for Newhouse News Service and a former president of the press club, to be his spokeswoman.

The House Ways and Means Committee last week agreed to postpone for one year the implementation of a law requiring states to place in jobs or job training a certain share of married parents on welfare.

The provision in the 1988 welfare-reform law was to take effect in October.

It would have required that as part of meeting their overall participation targets in 1994, states every month serve 40 percent of the welfare clients that are two-parent families with one unemployed worker.

That subgroup represents about 7 percent of welfare cases.

The Clinton Administration, which sought a two-year delay, had argued that states already experiencing rising caseloads due to the recession could not meet the targets for two-parent families without diverting resources from the "longer-term single-parent cases.''

President Clinton is also likely to propose revamping the work requirements for welfare recipients when he unveils his own welfare-reform plan.

The House last week passed the "religious freedom restoration act,'' which would reverse a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision by making it more difficult for government to interfere with a person's free exercise of religion.

The bill has been supported by religious educators, who fear the High Court decision could lead to greater governmental control over church-affiliated schools. (See Education Week, April 7, 1993.)

A similar measure has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting floor action.

The Administration late last week was considering sending to Congress a revised, $900 million economic-stimulus bill.

The new bill would not include funds for education or children's programs, but would include $300 million for summer jobs for youths. The President's original $16.3 billion proposal included nearly $5 billion for summer jobs for youths, Chapter 1, Head Start, and related programs.

Vol. 12, Issue 34

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