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Washington Briefs

Senate Passes Bill on Educational Savings Accounts

WASHINGTON — Senate Repub-licans succeeded in passing a bill supporting an educational IRA plan that President Clinton has vetoed twice in the past two years.
The bill, costing $7.7 billion over 10 years, would make savings in prepaid tuition plans tax free and expand tax breaks for employer-provided educational assistance.
Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., is a co-sponsor of the bill, which passed by a 61-37 vote thanks largely to Republicans who contend that the key to improving education is to give local schools and parents more control over education dollars.
The bill also would allow parents to place as much as $2,000 per child in educational savings accounts each year. The tax-free interest could be used for expenses — including transportation and tutors — associated with any public, private or parochial school from K-12. The education IRAs would expire at the end of 2003.
The House plans to act on the measure later this year.
Should it pass in the House, however, it is still unlikely the bill will become law.
White House administrators threatened to veto the bill last month, saying it “fails to advance education reform and distracts from the need to invest in public schools, where the vast majority of our students learn” and “does nothing to reduce class size, improve teacher quality or help students meet high academic standards.”
Democrats say education money should go toward hiring more teachers and building as well as repairing schoolhouses.
Torricelli says the president laid the foundation for education savings accounts when he pushed the current program, which allows parents to contribute up to $500 a year with tax-deductible earnings available for college expenses such as tuition and books.
Torricelli and Coverdell argue that their plan would lead to an education spending infusion of $12 billion, and that the main beneficiaries would be middle-class families with children in public schools.

20 percent of Students Skipped Drug Question  On Aid Applications

WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Education officials announced late last month that about 20 percent of students who have applied for federal financial aid so far have not responded to a question on the application that asks if they have ever been convicted of any illegal drug offense.
The question bears weight this year because department officials have mandated that students convicted of drug crimes could lose their financial aid.
Department officials say the students who have left the question unanswered will not be denied aid, but will be sent a letter notifying them that they must inform the department if they have been convicted of any drug-related offenses.
The students could either lose their aid altogether, or face penalties for lying on the aid forms.
The 2000-1 academic year is the first one that the department has mandated that students convicted of drug crimes could lose their student aid.

Clinton Pardons Professor Who Claimed Draft Board Was Racist
WASHINGTON — President Clinton has granted a pardon to Black professor Dr. Preston King, who fled to England 39 years ago to avoid a prison sentence for draft evasion.
King, now 63, was a graduate student when he fled Albany, Ga., in 1961 after being sentenced to serve 18 months in prison. He now is chairman of political science at Lancaster University in England.
King refused to report for an Army physical until an all-White draft board in Georgia addressed him as “Mr.,” the same way that it did White draftees.
He noted that the board addressed him as “Mr. Preston King” before learning he was Black and as “Preston” after that.
The full pardon issued last month meant that King was free to return to the United States for the funeral of his brother, Clennon King, who died in February. Over the years, he was unable to attend the funerals of his parents or other relatives for fear of arrest.
King’s supporters, including the federal judge who sentenced him to the 18-month term, had made a special appeal to Clinton to pardon King in time for him to attend the dedication of a new federal courthouse under construction in Albany that is named for another brother, civil rights attorney C.B. King.
“He has paid a big price,” wrote retired U.S. District Judge William A. Bootle, now 96, in a letter to Clinton last year. “To lock him up today would amount to overkill.”      

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