News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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White House, GOP Survey Common Ground

President Clinton and Republican leaders in Congress last week named education one of their top five priorities for bipartisan work in the 105th Congress.

Mr. Clinton ventured to Capitol Hill and met with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi to discuss areas where they can find enough bipartisanship to pass legislation.

At a news conference two days after the unusual meeting, Republicans mentioned higher education aid, technology, teacher training, and early-childhood programs as likely areas of agreement.

"Together, working across party lines, committee lines, and the expanse to the White House, we'll make our education system the pride of the world," said Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., the chairman of the Senate committee that handles education issues.

Members of the Senate Republicans' education task force invited Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley to discuss the administration's school agenda and provisions of S 1, the Republican's broad-based education bill. ("Republicans, Democrats Stake Out Education Agendas in Senate Bills," Feb. 5, 1997.)

A spokesman for the Department of Education said that Mr. Riley planned to meet with the Republicans "in the near future," but a date has not been set. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., who heads the GOP task force, asked that the conference be set for the first week of March.

Mr. Riley "will certainly discuss our very ambitious agenda" at the meeting, the department spokesman said.

Michael McCurry, Mr. Clinton's press secretary, said the president was pleased with the reception he had received and felt he will be able to work on education and other issues with the Republican legislators.

Gov. Engler Wants Employers' Job Training Input

Identifying labor market needs as a part of designing job-training programs should be left to local employers, a prominent Republican governor told a House panel last week.

Gov. John Engler of Michigan asked the panel to avoid placing too many federal regulations on job-training programs, saying that local officials are much better equipped to determine what types of skills make a person employable in any given area. But he stopped short of endorsing a Republican plan for job-training vouchers.

Michigan has tried to cut red tape and consolidate its programs to better meet the needs of high school students going directly into the workforce, Mr. Engler told the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, Training, and Lifelong Learning.

"Prescriptive mandates at the federal level often mean inappropriate services at the local level," he said. "Economic and workforce needs can only be accurately identified at the labor market level."

Federal laws, however, should include a system of accountability for consumers and taxpayers, he said.

The House panel is once again at work revamping the nation's job-training and vocational education laws, which were up for renewal last year but never made it through Congress.

The legislation died partly because conservative groups complained that efforts to merge training and vocational education programs into block grants would have emphasized vocational over academic skills for students.

No further hearings have been scheduled.

Census Panel Seeking Advice at March Meeting

The 2000 Census Advisory Committee will meet March 6-7 in Suitland, Md., to discuss how the information gathered in the population study will be used by outside groups and how it can best be presented. The group will also hear suggestions and report to the Department of Commerce on how to improve the census itself. ... The latest schools to be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places: the Lincoln Park School near Pinebluff, N.C., and Lawton High School in Lawton, Okla. Comments on the latest round of nominations are being accepted through Feb. 26.

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