News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Child Health Unites Opposites

Two ideological opposites in the Senate have joined forces to propose the latest in an array of congressional plans to extend affordable health care to millions of uninsured children.

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Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., one of the chamber's leading liberals, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a prominent conservative, have unveiled legislation that would expand the umbrella of health insurance to cover half of the nation's 10 million uninsured children. The plan, which would cost more than $20 billion over the next five years, would be paid for through a 43-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes.

Under the proposal, states would receive block grants and determine insurance-eligibility requirements. The higher cigarette tax might also prompt a reduction in teenage smoking, Sen. Kennedy said in a statement last month.

President Clinton's children's health-care plan, unveiled earlier this year, would extend health insurance to 5 million children through grants to states and by providing financial assistance to children whose parents are temporarily unemployed. ("President Seeks To Extend Health-Care Coverage," Feb. 19, 1997.) Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., also recently advanced legislation that would offer health coverage to uninsured children through tax credits and other incentives.

Aide To Work on National Tests

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has appointed an aide to be the deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs.

In her new position, Jennifer Davis will help create the voluntary tests in reading and mathematics that President Clinton wants to start in two years. She also will assist in writing the Department of Education proposals to change higher education and vocational education legislation.

Ms. Davis, who helped shepherd the Goals 2000: Educate America Act through Congress in 1993 and later worked to get the program up and running, already has assumed her new duties.

Indian Ed. Gets New Director

David L. Beaulieu, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, is the new director of federal education programs for American Indian children.

As the head of the office of Indian education at the Department of Education, Mr. Beaulieu will oversee $61 million in grants to school districts that serve large numbers of children from American Indian and Native Alaskan tribes.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley announced Mr. Beaulieu's appointment April 3.

Mr. Beaulieu is a former Minnesota commissioner of human rights and has held teaching and administrative posts at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Sinte Gleska University in Rosebud, S.D., and several other universities.

He also served on the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force appointed in 1990 by then-Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos.

Web-Access Gets Federal Boost

The Department of Education has joined an effort to make the Internet more accessible to students and adults with disabilities.

The department, along with the National Science Foundation, will contribute up to $800,000 for the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative. The companies and industry representatives will develop technology and industrywide standards to make the massive computer network more useful to the disabled through features such as video captioning and descriptive video.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said many blind and vision-impaired individuals cannot access Web sites because the pages rely on graphics-based technology. Many sites also have audio clips that those with hearing impairments cannot use.

"Learning on-line must not become a new fault line in American education, dividing the haves and have-nots," Mr. Riley said in announcing the effort. "All persons--disabled and nondisabled--deserve access to information that promotes excellence in education, work, and social understanding."

The department will transfer project funds to the National Science Foundation.

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