Clinton wants more education money for poor children, different distribution

September 15, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration released proposed legislation yesterday that would narrow the gap between rich and poor schools by redirecting federal education aid to give a greater share to poor districts.

The "Improving America's Schools Act of 1993" would also increase federal funding to underfunded schools to $7 billion in fiscal 1995, an 11 percent increase from fiscal 1994, and would refocus existing programs to ensure that children from low-income families are encouraged to meet the same advanced academic standards now expected of middle-class children.

The proposal would restructure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was established in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty and was the first federal program for supporting school districts in low-income areas.

Education officials said the shift in funding is necessary because many poor schools are not receiving federal aid.

In general, big city school systems nationwide would receive sizable increases, as would poor rural counties. The big losers would be wealthier suburban communities and some states, such as Maine and Iowa, that have comparatively strong financial support from other sources.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said the measure is necessary because America cannot afford to "dumb down another generation" by setting low standards for poor children, as it has for decades.

"Expectations of what poor children can learn have decreased so much that we are in danger of creating a new form of class division based on access and educational opportunity," he said. "It is President Clinton's clear statement that we will not forsake the children of America."

Mr. Riley conceded that, while the measure can improve educational opportunities for low-income children, it does not level out the disparities between rich and poor schools.

"It will do an awful lot, but it will not do enough," he said. States and local communities will also have to play a big role, he said.

The measure is part of Mr. Clinton's strategy to improve prospects for the more than 20 percent of U.S. children who live in poverty. The administration is also working to increase funding for children's health care, the preschool Head Start program and "school-to-work" programs that help young people -- especially those who do not intend to attend college -- prepare for careers. It also has plans to crack down on parents who fail to pay child support.

Currently, two-thirds of all public schools receive money through nTC Chapter I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But the funds are not necessarily going to the neediest districts.

For instance, Chapter I money goes to almost half of the schools in America that have low-income enrollments of just 10 percent, while many schools with low-income enrollments of more than 75 percent receive no Chapter I funds.

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