Federal File: Sandlot softball; In the works; Not easy being green

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The debate in the Goals 2000 conference over "opportunity to learn'' standards could be played out again later this year, when the House and Senate meet to resolve differences in legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Some lawmakers and aides said the conference could foreshadow what is to come.

"It will definitely have an impact on the final E.S.E.A. agreement,'' said an aide to a House Republican.

A Senate Republican aide said that while her boss could support Goals 2000 even with opportunity standards he is uncomfortable with, the flagship federal education program is another matter.

But Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the two bills are nothing alike.

"This is a $400 million bill,'' he said of Goals 2000. "E.S.E.A. is a $10.5 billion bill. It's like sandlot softball versus major-league baseball.''

The Clinton Administration is gearing up to make it as easy as possible for states to apply for Goals 2000 grants provided the bill is enacted by April 1, when $105 million already appropriated would otherwise cease to be available.

Among other things, application materials will be available soon after enactment, the Education Department will provide technical assistance to grant seekers, and a conference of state representatives is in the works.

The conference committee convened on March 15, only two days before St. Patrick's Day.

And it began to show on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee and chief Senate negotiator and, of course, a prominent son of the Auld Sod.

At the end of the first day of negotiations, as House members waged a tough fight over one issue, Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., the ranking minority member on Mr. Kennedy's committee, leaned over to the chairman and said the day had been filled with disappointments.

"They're all disappointments,'' Mr. Kennedy told her. "It's getting close to St. Patrick's Day, anyway. I get melancholy.''--MARK PITSCH

Vol. 13, Issue 26

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