Administration seeks to redirect school funds More to poor areas, less to rich areas

September 15, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has proposed to redirect federal aid from prosperous school districts to cities and poor rural areas, and at the same time require the poorer schools to raise their mathematics and reading standards to qualify for the assistance.

The renewed effort to rescue students considered most likely to fail by providing them with concentrated daily tutoring is a central feature of the administration's plan to overhaul the government's principal school program for poor children.

Tens of millions of dollars of additional education aid would be diverted to such cities as New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, where poverty, crime and the breakdown of families has led to delinquency and poor study habits, putting extra burdens on local schools.

"When you are in deep water, you need a long rope to pull you in," said Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley as he announced the details of the Improving America's School Act of 1993, which was introduced to Congress yesterday. Calling the fact that one in five of the nation's children live in poverty "a scandal of increasing proportion," he added that the government can no longer "be shy about sticking our necks out to help these children."

The administration plans to increase the money spent through the program, known as Chapter 1, from $6.3 billion for the fiscal year 1994 to $7 billion in 1995. In a trade-off that is likely to upset many legislators, suburban areas and rural regions with lower concentrations of poor children would have reduced financing so that more could be spent in districts with the highest number of failing students.

In addition to giving the poor districts more money, the proposal would hold them to higher standards of progress for students in the program. To achieve the higher standards, Chapter 1 tutoring time and curriculums would be expanded.

Chapter 1 provides extra tutoring for 5.5 million disadvantaged students from kindergarten through high school.

At the core of the administration's strategy to fortify the Chapter 1 program is a politically difficult balancing act. To maximize its effect on school districts that have the highest concentrations of poor children, the administration is proposing to cut aid to more prosperous districts, setting up a wrenching clash in Congress based on regional and class rivalries. Sixteen states, including Maryland, would lose financing.

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