WASHINGTON—A Senate committee voted Tuesday to block the Carter administration from issuing rules before the November election to require schools to provide bilingual education for non-English-speaking students.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17-6 to prohibit the Education Department from promulgating such regulations until at least June 1.
Committee members said they were concerned that the rules would be issued before Nov. 4 and before Congress had thoroughly studied the financial impact on local school districts.
Administration officials, however, denied that they had any plans to issue the rules before the election.
The vote on an amendment by Sen. Lawton Chiles, D-Fla., came as the committee considered a House-passed bill that would put nearly the entire government under stopgap funding when Congress recesses next week for the election campaign.
The stopgap funding bill, which expires Dec. 15, would require Congress to return after the election for a “lame-duck” session.
Committee action on the bill became bogged down Tuesday evening in a debate over whether to increase energy assistance to Sunbelt states to help the poor and elderly afford fans and air conditioning during the summer months.
An amendment on how to divide the energy assistance was held over for a vote Wednesday.
Chiles’ bilingual amendment followed defeat of a more severe proposal by Sen. James A. McClure, R-Idaho, to bar the Education Department from issuing any regulations on the type of multi-language programs that schools must offer.
The department is considering rules that would mandate special bilingual courses for students if they don’t speak English as well as 40 percent of the population.
The proposed regulations would require the schools to provide certain courses in the student’s language while the student is learning English.
Some government estimates put the cost of those regulations at between $200 million and $600 million.
McClure argued that the cost of the proposed rules could result in a tremendous financial burden on local school districts as did earlier federal requirements for the teaching of handicapped students.
Committee members said the administration had lobbied hard against the McClure amendment.
In a recent letter, Education Secretary Shirley Hufstedler said the comment period on the department’s proposed regulations would end Oct. 20, making it possible for the rules to be issued before the election.
However, Colleen O’Connor, a department spokeswoman, said the administration had not planned to issue the regulations before early next year.
“Development of regulations is not something that runs on a political timeclock,” she said.
The Appropriations Committee also voted to limit the number of programs that would be funded at House-approved 1981 levels, agreeing to continue financing for most of the government at 1980 levels. The House had approved the higher levels.
The Senate committee, however, did approve 1981 spending levels for defense, energy and water projects, the strategic petroleum reserve and gasoline rationing.
The panel also voted to fund foreign aid at a 1980 level agreed to by House-Senate negotiators, although foreign aid is currently funded at the 1979 level because of House opposition to the 1980 figure.