News In Brief

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The Senate Budget Committee late last week approved a budget resolution that calls for about $200 million more in discretionary spending for education, job training, and social services than President Clinton proposed in his fiscal 1995 budget.

On a 13-to-8 vote, the panel approved a blueprint that recommends $44.2 billion in discretionary spending and $13.4 billion in entitlement funding, for a total of $57.6 billion.

The full House passed its budget resolution March 11 by a vote of 223 to 175. It calls for a total of $57 billion in spending for the category that includes the same group of programs. The President proposed almost $58 billion for that broad category.

It is hard to assess the budget resolution's impact, since it makes recommendations only for broad categories, and appropriators later set spending for specific programs. But the Senate panel did recommend that appropriators grant more funds than Mr. Clinton proposed for Head Start and impact-aid programs.

But the panel rejected a proposal by Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., to recommend a $5 billion increase for special education, which now receives about $3.1 billion, to be offset largely by defense cuts.

In other fiscal action, the House failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget. The vote tally was 271 to 153. The Senate rejected a similar amendment earlier this month.

The education community traditionally has opposed a balanced-budget amendment, fearing that it would squeeze funding for school programs.

Disability Bias: The U.S. Justice Department is investigating charges that the Educational Testing Service and the College Board are discriminating against students with disabilities by not allowing them sufficient opportunity to take the Scholastic Assessment Test.

The department has received 30 complaints since February alleging that the test administrators are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disabled students who need to take the college-entrance exam in a special format or require extra time must take the test this spring on either March 19 or March 23.

Other students can take the test on any--or all--of three dates, including a May date that students in many S.A.T.-preparation courses aim for, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

The E.T.S. said that the transition to a new version of the S.A.T. has left officials with insufficient time to prepare enough materials to allow multiple test dates for disabled students.

The Justice Department is also investigating allegations that the E.T.S. sends only raw test scores from the special-format tests to colleges, rather than the scaled scores admissions officers customarily use to compare students' scores.

Direct Lending: In an effort to assure college students of access to loans in the event that a guarantee agency fails, the Education Department has contracted with a new private, nonprofit agency to serve as a guarantor "of last resort'' during the transition to a direct-lending system.

The department has also negotiated an agreement with Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Association, to serve as a lender of last resort.

Under the new direct-lending program, the federal government will make loans directly to students through their schools, rather than through private lenders.

Direct loans must account for 5 percent of new student-loan volume in the 1994-95 academic year--the inaugural year of the program--and gradually increase to at least 60 percent by 1998-99.

Critics fear that the shift could result in the collapse of guarantee agencies, which back loans.

Board members of the Higher Education Assistance Foundation, a Minneapolis-based guarantee agency that failed in 1990, created the new nonprofit agency. After HEAF's failure, the Education Department and Sallie Mae each appointed three new members to its board.

At a news conference last week, the new board members presented Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley with a mock $300 million check representing a reimbursement for the cost of defaulted student loans that HEAF had backed.

Guarantee agencies retain 30 percent of the defaulted loans they collect, while the department receives 70 percent. In 1990, the department allowed HEAF to keep the department's share in order to finance the agency's liquidation.

Vocational Post: Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley last week named Patricia W. McNeil, the founder of an education consulting firm, as the deputy assistant secretary for vocational and adult education.

Ms. McNeil will spearhead the department's implementation of the proposed school-to-work transition program now nearing passage in Congress.

A former Labor Department official and chief executive officer of the National Commission for Employment Policy, she established the Alexandria, Va.-based Workforce Policy Associates in 1990, specializing in education, training, and school-to-work programs.

Vol. 13, Issue 26

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