News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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President Stumps for Juvenile-Crime Plan

When he sent his budget plan for fiscal 1998 to Congress earlier this month, President Clinton asked lawmakers to approve a substantial boost in programs to fight juvenile crime and gangs.

Last week, he went on the road to sell the package.

In an afternoon speech to educators, police, and parents in Boston--a city that has lowered its crime rate among young people--the president outlined a package of initiatives that he said will help reverse a decade of escalating juvenile crime.

The plan calls for $100 million to help prosecutors reduce gang-related crimes and violent juvenile offenses. Mr. Clinton also proposed spending $75 million to fight truancy and school violence and $50 million to establish a "violent-youth court program."

The country's ballooning population of young people makes such action critical, Mr. Clinton said. "There are now about 52 million young Americans in our schools--the largest school-age population ever," the president said. "And so we know we've got to turn this thing around, or our country is going to be living with chaos."

Nonpartisan Funding Group Seeks More Money

A nonpartisan coalition of more than 80 education groups is urging Congress to boost education funding again this year.

The Committee for Education Funding wants Congress to beat President Clinton's proposed 11 percent increase for education funding in fiscal 1998.

"It's important that Congress take the president up on his challenge to broaden the resources available for education," said Edward R. Kealy, the coalition's executive director.

The Washington-based group is urging Congress to match last year's $3.5 billion increase in education spending in order to make up for higher costs and increasing enrollments.

The programs that most need more funding, Mr. Kealy said, include Title I, the federal government's program for helping the education of poor children; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal special education law; and vocational training programs. Also, funding for programs slated to lose money in Mr. Clinton's proposed budget, such as impact aid, school funding for areas where the federal government is a major employer or property owner, should be restored, he said.

Welfare Changes May Boost Assistance

States will have more money to spend for families on public assistance under the new federal welfare law, a key lawmaker says.

A state-by-state analysis commissioned by Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., who chairs the House Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees welfare, shows that the drop in the number of families eligible for welfare benefits means that states will have more to spend on families still needing assistance.

Using a projected-caseload analysis, Mr. Shaw estimates that states will have an average of $5,662 per family in fiscal 1998, which begins Oct. 1. That's a 34 percent increase from 1994, when states spent an average of $3,624 per family.

"As welfare caseloads continue to decline, states are going to have very substantial resources to help the most needy," Mr. Shaw said. "Welfare reform is already having major impacts--and the prospects are good for even greater success in the future."

State officials, though, have complained that the law places too great a burden on states. States have also contended that the federal law unfairly requires states to shoulder all welfare costs for some people who are not eligible for federal benefits, including some legal immigrants.

Haas Leaves Child-Nutrition Post

After a productive and sometimes stormy assignment in the Department of Agriculture post that oversees child-nutrition programs, Ellen W. Haas resigned as USDA undersecretary to "move on to the next challenge."

During her four-year tenure, the longtime child-nutrition advocate oversaw an unprecedented overhaul of the dietary guidelines in the 60-year-old federal school lunch program. She also led the department's fight to keep nutritional programs from being combined into a block grant to the states.

But beyond her accomplishments, Ms. Haas was often criticized for managerial failings. Last fall, a scathing General Accounting Office report blasted the undersecretary for alleged ethical lapses and violations of federal procurement laws. Ms. Haas has repeatedly dismissed such allegations as partisan attacks.

Ms. Haas said she is considering several job opportunities. A successor has not been named.

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