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Strong Rhetoric Belies Modest Changes

The Budget of the `Education President'

By Eric S. Solowey

After hearing President Bush's repeated assertions during the campaign that he would be the "education president," many educators said they hoped that the newly elected president's first budget would include a sigificant increase in federal funding for education.

But after examining Bush's first budget last week, legislators discovered that it contained only modest increases in spending over what former President Ronald W. Reagan proposed in his 1990 budget.

"Bush had his first opportunity to put his stamp on the new budget," said David Evans, staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts and Humanities. "That would have been a real psychological boost for the president's new educational plans."

Although the Bush budget allocates $441 million in new spending, mostly for pre-college programs, legislators say they are disappointed that the plan does not call for an increase for major financial aid programs. (See box)

"Overall, the President's education proposals involve a series of modest program initiatives that, taken together, enhance the small but critical role the federal government plays in education," said Sen. Clairborne Pell (D-R.I.), chair of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

"I had hoped that the Bush education budget might target additional funding for such vitally important programs as student assistance," Pell added.

Funding for Pell Grants, which provide direct federal assistance to college students, would increase 6 percent under Bush's plan, while funding for the College Work-Study program would remain the same. But spending for Guaranteed Student Loans would be cut by 7 percent.

Bush also proposed a major reduction in funding for Perkins Loans, which are administered by and paid back to the individual colleges. In 1987, the Reagan Administration began phasing out Perkins Loans in favor of Income Contingent Loans (ICL), which provide financing at market interest rates. ICL spending would be quadrupled under the Bush plan.

Approximately 650 Harvard students now receive Perkins Loans, but it is impossible to tell whether the new budget will have any impact on them because aid awards are affected by many other factors, according to James S. Miller, director of financial aids.

"Cuts [in Perkins Loans] are not the issue, but it is how the remaining funds are redistributed," Miller said.

While Bush has been criticized for not increasing aid to existing higher education programs, most educators have praised his initiatives for new college and pre-college programs.

"There is a lack of funding to go with the rhetoric, but this does not mean that [Bush] is not serious about doing new things in education," said Vice President for Government and Public Affairs John Shattuck.

Bush proposed two programs aimed at higher education. One is a program for traditionally Black institutions of higher learning, which would provide $60 million over the next four years for matching grants for the schools' endowments. schools' endowments.

"The program is designed to help historically Black colleges and universities to build endowments in order to put them on firmer financial footing," said Lonn Anderson, spokesperson for Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos.

Many Black colleges are in financial trouble and need help from the federal government, said Althea T. L. Simmons, chief lobbyist and director of the Washington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Simmons said the NAACP would lobby for more funding because the budget proposal did not allocate sufficient money for the program.

Bush's other proposal for higher education is for what he calls "national science scholars." The program would cost $5 million next year, and award up to $10,000 for college tuition to students who excel in math and science in high school.

Pre-College Programs

Most of Bush's educational proposals focus on pre-college education. Among them are the following:

.A "merit schools" program, which would provide $100,000 grants to schools that have shown improved educational performance and reduced drop-out rates. Price: $250 million.

. An award of $5000 for approximately 25 outstanding teachers from each state every year. Price: $8 million.

. Funds for the founding of "magnet schools," which would excel in a particular subject, and would attract students from that area. Price: $100 million.

. An "Alternate Teacher Certification Program" that would let uncertified but qualified people teach in an effort to ease the teacher shortage. Price: $25 million.

. Funding for educational research. Price: $13 million.

. One-time grants for schools seriously affected by drugs. Price: $25 million.

. A literacy program for adults. Price: $3 million.

. A program for the education of homeless children. Price: $3 million.

Dean of the Graduate School of Education Patricia A. Graham said in an interview yesterday that Bush's programs did not address some of the fundamental issues in education.

Graham said that children who are hungry, who do not sleep well because of poor living conditions or who are in poor health will inevitably find it difficult to learn.

"We need a comprehensive children's policy that will give children a better safety net," Graham said.

Graham said she believed the merit schools program was a good idea but that problems might arise in defining what "merit" is, since schools in different regions of the country may have different needs and goals.

The dean also said that while she favors experimentation in alternative teacher certification, the Bush proposal might present certain problems. Under the new program, people who have mastered a subject in their profession can bypass certification programs and teach without training.

Graham said that the places in need of teachers are frequently the places where it is difficult to teach children. She said that teachers in these areas not only need to know the material, but should also be trained in teaching methods.

Although the budget may be changed before it becomes law, there is no timetable for when those changes may occur, congressional officials said. Under current laws, Congress must have a budget by the end of the fiscal year in September. The debate over the budget should start to heat up next week when Congress returns from recess, they said.

One issue likely to arise is how Bush will pay for his new programs. The president has been criticized in the past week for being too vague about where the money will come from, as well as to where it will go.

"The administration has proposed new education programs costing about $440 million," said Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Calif.), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. "I am concerned about the financing methods of these efforts. I cannot see how you could pay for these initiatives without making critical budget cuts in other education and domestic programs."

While no one would predict how well Bush's education proposals will fare in Congress, both the president and legislators have expressed a willingness to work together. Congressional officials said that they expected Congress to come up with its budget by late spring.

Federal Funding For Major Student Aid Programs (In millions of dollars) Appropriation FY 1988  Appropriation FY 1989  Proposed FY 1990 Pell Grants  4260.4  4483.9  4740.0 Guaranteed Student Loans (GSL)  2565.0  3174.4  2962.5 Work-Study  588.2  610.1  610.1 Supplemental Grants  408.4  438.0  452.9 Perkins Loans  210.6  205.5  22.0 Income Contingent Loans (ICL)  4.3  4.9  20.0

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