The Reagan administration yesterday sent Congress its proposal for a major shift in natinal education policy that would lump together 44 programs and most likely means less money for poor students in large inner-city schools. a
The administration bill would reduce federal aid to education by $1 billion next year. It would continue to earmark the bulk of federal assistance for poor and handicapped children, but give states and local school districts far more spending latitude than now. It would, for example, do away with longstanding rules that bar school districts from substituting federal aid for local spending on these children, thus freeing local funds.
The bill also would reduce by one-fourth the amount of federal money directed at poor and handicapped children, and let states ignore groups of these children if they choose.
Speaking on behalf of what he called "a states-rights administration," Education Secretary Terrel H. Bell said the federal school programs have shifted "too much of the money and the control" of education policy to Washington during the last 15 years.
"The 50 states must regain control of education and hold on to it," Bell said. "This is their big chance." The administration has proposed similar block grants or mergers of existing social services programs.
Under the legislation, money now allocated for 44 programs, ranging from aid to the disadvantaged, the largest federal program, to metric education, would be lumped into a single block grant and forwarded to states. Bell said the laws creating those programs now fill 253 pages, and regulations another 398.
Each state would draw up a formula, taking into consideration such factors as the number of poor and handicapped children, to allocate money to local school districts.The typical school district now receives about 8 percent of its budget from the federal government, but some big-city districts with large numbers of poor children receive up to 16 percent.
These districts "are going to get hit harder" than others, Bell told a briefing. I'm concerned about it, but that's just the way it's going to fall."
Bell also said a state would be free to reduce the amount of money it spends on the poor. "They could do it, but they would have to take the political heat, and I don't think they'll do it," he said.
The total education package is down by $1 billion from the $5.4 billion the Carter administration sought for federal school programs. Bell conceded that this might put pressure on state and local governments to increase taxes, but claimed most would simply tighten their belts.
The Reagan administration bill would scrap requirements that federal funds "supplement rather than supplant" local funding, a provision that civil rights and other groups fought for in the 1960s to ensure that the federal money would be added to what was already being spent for the schooling of disadvantaged children.
The bill is likely to face tough sledding in the House, where it will go before Education and Labor Commitee Chairman Carl D. Perkins (D-Ky), a principal author of most of the currrent federal programs. It is expected to do better in the Senate.