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News Briefs II

House OKs New Tax Break On Private School Tuition

Los Angeles Times

Embracing a controversial new tax break, the House voted Thursday to allow most families to save up to $2,500 annually in tax-sheltered savings accounts that can be used for private school tuition and other educational expenses, including transportation, tutoring or a computer.

The measure faces an uphill battle, however. Both Education Secretary Richard Riley and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said if the Senate approves the bill and sends it to President Clinton, they will recommend he veto the legislation because it is "bad education policy and bad tax policy."

The bill passed in the House by a 230-198 vote, largely along party lines. Regardless of the measure's ultimate fate, it represented another salvo in a rapidly escalating partisan battle over education policy, an issue polls have shown is soaring to the top of voter concerns.

With an eye toward a possible issue in next year's elections, Republican proponents were jubilant after the bill's passage, saying it would help disenchanted middle-class parents send their children to private schools - and that competition for students would improve academic standards in both public and private schools.

Koop Declines Role in Group Supporting Tobacco Settlement

The Washington Post

Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop has declined to become a spokesman for a national coalition of public health groups that wants Congress to approve a national tobacco settlement, possibly signaling a new rift over the proposed deal.

In an Oct. 20 letter to Stanton A. Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, one of the most vocal opponents of the deal, Koop wrote that the coalition, called Effective National Action to Control Tobacco, is being too meek in its approach, and thus stands to lose important measures that would reduce smoking by teenagers.

Once a tobacco bill moves through Congress, Koop wrote, "there will be all sorts of compromise and if the president's proposal is the goal, we'll end up with half of that." He concluded that "we have to keep hammering away." He also expressed reservations about whether the president's focus on young people would be effective, writing that "You and I are on practically the same wavelength."

ENACT was formed soon after Clinton's announcement by the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association and other groups to push for Congress to approve a deal incorporating the president's changes.