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News Briefs

Vote on NAFTA Pact May Not Take Place Until '94

Los Angeles Times


With the Clinton administration about to launch a full-dress effort to win approval of the three-way trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, the senior House Democrat suggested for the first time Thursday that a vote on the pact may not take place until early next year.

The comments by House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., sent administration officials and congressional supporters scurrying to emphasize President Clinton's commitment to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., one of the key House Democrats supporting the agreement, termed the question of a delay a "legitimate technical issue," he discounted the notion that it demonstrated "a lack of resolve by the president or anyone else." And White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers insisted that the trade agreement had not "been put on the back burner."

"There has been no change on the timing or our commitment to NAFTA," Myers said, although she and other administration officials acknowledged that a delay until January was possible.

Administration denials notwithstanding, Foley's comments, and the miniature firestorm that ensued, illustrated the sensitivity of the debate over the agreement, and the certainty that the White House will have to pull out all stops to gain its approval by majorities of both the House and Senate.

Senate Codifies Policy On Gays in the Military

The Washington Post


The Senate Thursday approved a policy on homosexuals in the military that critics denounced as more restrictive than President Clinton proposed two months ago in a compromise designed to resolve disputes over the controversial issue.

It did so in rejecting, 63 to 33, a move by liberals to strip all restrictive language governing homosexuals in the military from the 1994 defense authorization bill and to replace it with a statement that the president should determine the policy in his role as commander-in-chief.

In proposing to leave the issue to Clinton, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the policy proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee was more discriminatory than Clinton's compromise and argued it would "perpetuate the injustice done to courageous Americans" because of their sexual orientation.

But Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said Congress had a responsibility to act and contended it would be an "unfortunate abdication of our responsibility and obligations under the Constitution" not to do so.

American Spending On Public Schools Soars

The Washington Post


The amount of money America spends on its public schools has soared as much as health care costs, so that each household now spends an annual average of $2,348 in taxes to fund schools.

A large part of the rise has fattened bureaucracy and there is no sign that the investment improved learning, according to new study released Thursday by a bipartisan group of legislators and a former education secretary William J. Bennett.

In New Jersey, New York, and other places where taxpayers pay among the most for their schools, the students are among lowest achievers, according to their test scores and high school graduation rates.

"There is no systematic link between spending and academic achievement," said Emily Feistritzer, president of the National Center for Education Information and author of the study. "Standards, academic rigor and targeted resources pay off."

Public school advocates say it is unfair to criticize the rising costs of running public schools, especially those in large urban areas, because the schools are now paying for once unheard of items, such as metal detectors and foreign language teachers for immigrants from more than 100 countries.

"New Jersey has more of concentration of poverty, students with limited English proficiency and immigrants than Wyoming," said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools. It is not only unfair to compare states, he said, but is already generally agreed on that money alone is not the answer to school problems.