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Spending bill would freeze funds for HBCUs – historically Black colleges and universities

Historically Black colleges and universities would receive the same amount of federal funding in 1997 that they received this year under legislation proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives.


The funding freeze would leave the HBCU program at $108.9 million, where it has remained since fiscal year 1995. Support for HBCU, graduate institutions also would remain unchanged at $19.6 million.


The provisions are part of a 1997 education funding bill that, overall, takes a less confrontational tone than GOP plans last year, which prompted presidential vetoes and two partial shutdowns of the government. The new tone is most evident in elementary and secondary programs, which were slated for large cuts last year. This year’s higher education budget contains many of the same funding freezes originally proposed in 1995.


One higher education program that would get an increase under the new plan is TRIO services to recruit disadvantaged youth for college. House Republicans would provide $500 million, an increase of $37 million from current funding. The White House requested the same increase for TRIO in its 1997 budget plan presented earlier this year. The administration also proposed a freeze in funding for HBCUs.


Federal support for Hispanic-serving institutions would remain unchanged in the Republican hill at $10.8 million next year.


The bill did not contain the idea favored by some Republicans to transfer funds from Howard University to HBCUs and deficit reduction. The House bill would earmark $187 million for Howard, up $5 million from last year but $9 million below the president’s request for the university. Total funding for student financial aid would drop slightly under the bill, with most cuts coming through elimination of new capital for Perkins Loans and termination of the $31 million State Student Incentive Grant program. By comparison, funding for Pell Grants would increase by $400 million, enough to provide a $30 increase in the maximum grant, from $2,470 to $2,500.


The U.S. Education Department labeled the Pell Grant increase inadequate to meet student needs, however. The administration favors a maximum grant of $2,700 as part of a $1 billion expansion of the program.


Yet, House Republicans topped ED in recommendations for college work/study programs in 1997. The House bill would earmark $685 million, a 10 percent, or $68.5 million, increase above current funding. The White House proposed a smaller increase for next year.


The more conciliatory tone of the House was evident as lawmakers backed away from last year’s plan to chop $1 billion from Title 1 education programs for the disadvantaged. Instead, the House would freeze funding for local districts at $6.7 billion next year.


The bill also contains a small increase for Head Start. The GOP wanted a cut here as well last year before dropping both the Title I and Head Start proposals after months of difficult budget negotiations. The new spending bill likely will reach the House floor this month, and the Senate also will develop its own spending plan for ED this summer. A House/ Senate conference committee then would resolve any differences between the bills before sending it to the White House. The bill applies to the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.


Dems Focus Election Hopes on `Families First’ Plan In 1994, Republicans devised the Contract with America and rode it to victory in the House and Senate. Late last month, Democrats unveiled their plan to recapture Capitol Hill with the theme `Families First.’


“Our agenda is for all families, not just for the lucky few who’ve made it,” said Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD), in outlining the plan. Daschle said the new plan followed six weeks of meetings in communities to gauge the sentiments and needs of average Americans.


The agenda contains proposals affecting education, child care, welfare, health care and crime, some of which are not new. Some of the proposals that may affect education include:


a $10,000 tax deduction for college tuition costs;


a $1,500 credit in the first two years of college for students who maintain a B average and remain drug free; and


reforms of the welfare system to place recipients in education and work programs with child care and health support.


 Other elements of the agenda would add more police, develop community programs to reduce delinquency and require insurance companies to offer children-only policies for youngsters even if their parents lose or are denied health benefits.


Despite the widespread losses incurred by Democrats two years ago, Daschle said Americans still are disenchanted with congressional leadership and are looking toward his party for leadership. “The Republican party claims a mandate that does not exist,” he said.


Support Builds for Legislation on Church Fires Congress appears ready to approve legislation to bolster federal efforts to investigate the rash of church fires in African-American communities.


A bill to increase penalties and train more officers sailed through the House of Representatives in late June and received a positive, bipartisan response in the Senate. “If we in Congress cannot agree that church burning is a despicable crime, what can we agree upon?” said Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), a conservative who introduced the legislation with one of the Senate’s leading liberals, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). The bill has 37 co-sponsors.


Among other provisions, the legislation would:


make it easier to prosecute a series of cases by eliminating jurisdictional rules that can impede prosecution;


increase the maximum penalty for those convicted of the crime;


increase the statute of limitations to provide additional time for investigations;


allow the Treasury Department to hire more officers in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to assist in the investigations;


help train state and local officers in arson cases; and


authorize federal loan guarantees to help rebuild churches.


The Senate bill also would reauthorize the Hate Crime Statistics Act, in which the government collects information and documents the extent of hate crimes nationwide. “These threats are intolerable,” said Deval Patrick, assistant attorney general for civil rights and a frequent witness at recent public hearings to draw attention to the arson cases.


Law enforcement has successfully prosecuted two recent cases of church fires at predominantly Black congregations, he said. Yet, the destruction of physical evidence in a fire plus a lack of witnesses are obstacles in most cases, he said. The Congressional Black Caucus held a recent hearing on the issue that attracted a cross section of religious and civil rights leaders.


Lawmakers deserve credit for acting quickly on the legislation, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-IL) said at the hearing. Yet, Jackson was sharply critical of political leaders and others who use affirmative action, welfare and crime as hot-button issues to divide Americans by race.


“Such words and actions help to set a national climate that appeals, not to the best in us, but to the worst in us. And that climate rubs the sticks, strikes the spark and fans the winds that eventually bring us the burning down of Black churches,” he said.


COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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