A City Council committee last week approved a bill to allow the Board of Education to lease unused space in the city's schools and use the money for school programs and maintenance.

The council's committee on government operations deleted provisions that would have given the same authority to the University of the District of Columbia, however.

It also eliminated language that would have given the City Council authority to review all proposed leasing of private land by the city and would have required the mayor to make quarterly reports to the council on any leasing agreements the city undertook.

According to the corporation counsel's office, those provisions would have allowed the council to interfere in what it called an executive branch responsibility.

The bill, introduced by Council Member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) more than a year ago, still must be approved by the full City Council.

Under current law the school board, which is wrestling with the issue of whether to close schools with small enrollments, is allowed to give school space to groups such as civic organizations and social and recreational centers, but any money collected must be turned over to the city's general fund.

Under Mason's bill, schools that lease space would be able to use the money to defray operating expenses and maintenance costs at the leased schools. The bill has been strongly supported by the Rev. David Eaton (D-At Large), current president of the school board.

Several city officials, including council and school board members, said the legislation could offer a profitable alternative to closing schools during a period of declining enrollments.