News In Brief

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The Health and Human Services Department is poised to provide $3.25 million to school-health programs serving homeless and at-risk youths, in what will be the first federal grants specifically targeted to school-based clinics.

Currently, school-based clinics solicit funds from a variety of federal sources, including Medicaid, maternal- and child-health block grants, the drug-free-schools program, and Title X of the Public Health Service Act, although none of these programs is specifically designed to fund them.

In 1992, federal officials estimated that such clinics received $17 million from federal sources.

The new "Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities'' program has not been formally authorized by Congress. But in reports accompanying the fiscal 1994 appropriations bill that covers Health and Human Services, lawmakers earmarked some funds under a health program for the homeless for the purpose of funding school-based health services for homeless and at-risk students. The department will issue about 15 grants to set up clinics and expand primary-care services at existing sites, according to information provided by the Public Health Service.

Grants can also be used for technical assistance to schools and communties working toward creating school-based health centers.

Officials said the department is looking for applicants who can demonstrate support from parents, schools, and health-care providers.

Officials plan to publish a request for proposals by March and to issue the grants by September.

Privatization Hearing: A Senate panel last week aired views on the idea of turning public schools over to private management.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, called the Jan. 25 hearing to spotlight efforts by such firms as Education Alternatives Inc., which is under contract to manage or oversee instruction at some public schools in Baltimore and Miami Beach, and the Edison Project, which is hoping to win similar contracts by 1995.

Benno C. Schmidt Jr., the president of the Edison Project, said that if the planned Edison Schools do not deliver results, public school officials "will fire us, and they should fire us.'' The firm, set up by the media entrepreneur Christopher Whittle, has yet to sign any contracts with school districts.

Bella Rosenberg, an assistant to Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, criticized both firms, saying that "there is no evidence that private management of schools ... produces miracles.''

But Thomas W. Payzant, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said that "if communities want to hire companies to come in and help their schools, they ought to be able to do so.''

Aid Cut Off: The Education Department last month took emergency action to cut off federal student-aid funds to 21 Judaic-studies schools that have been accused of fraud.

Last October, Senate hearings revealed that the schools had received an estimated $60 million in Pell Grant funds for which they were ineligible. Twenty of the 21 schools are in the New York City area; one is based in California.

Several schools allegedly paid elderly immigrants to attend English classes, charged inflated tuition to enable students to qualify for federal aid, and maintained fraudulent records. Other schools were ineligible primarily because they did not meet accreditation criteria. (See Education Week, Nov. 5, 1993.)

"The emergency action turns the spigot off'' while officials move to permanently cut off aid, a department spokeswoman said.

Vol. 13, Issue 19

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