Newsbrief: Souder Pushes Partial HEA Reform, Frank to Reintroduce Drug Provision Repeal Bill 1/17/03

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With a new Congress heading to work this month, the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision, under which students who have drug convictions lose federal financial aid for specified periods, is once again on the agenda. Two bills have been or will be introduced this session, one that seeks to tweak the measure and one that seeks to kill it outright.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), author of the 1998 HEA anti-drug provision, along with 13 cosponsors, has introduced a bill incorporating many of the education reforms listed in the House Education Committee's FED UP package crafted by a bipartisan subcommittee last year. Among them is a provision that would limit financial aid ineligibility to students who are convicted of drug offenses "that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving any grant, loan, or work assistance under this title..."

Souder, who has suffered political attacks as a result of the anti-drug provision, has claimed repeatedly that he only intended for the provision to apply to students currently receiving financial aid. Under the bill as written, however, any drug conviction -- no matter when it occurred -- makes students ineligible for federal financial aid. Some 91,000 students have lost financial aid under the provision so far, according to the US Department of Education.

But while Souder and his allies attempt to deflect some of the heat by limiting the exclusion, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) will soon reintroduce his bill to repeal the provision outright, Frank staffers told the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) Washington office. The Frank bill, H.R. 786 last session (it will be renumbered when re-filed), seeks simply "to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to repeal the provisions prohibiting persons convicted of drug offenses from receiving student financial assistance." H.R. 786 reached 67 cosponsors last year, 61 of whom remain in office.

The Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com), an umbrella group of students, student governments, university administrations, student financial aid officers, and education and civil rights groups fighting the anti-drug provision, will be engaging in discussions soon to craft a common response to the two bills. Ten members of Congress addressed a press conference organized by the coalition at the US Capitol last May, calling for the provision's full repeal (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/chear-press-conference.html).

To read the bills, go to the Library of Congress web site at http://thomas.loc.gov and search for H.R. 12 (108th Congress) and H.R. 786 (107th Congress).

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Issue #272, 1/17/03 The Road to Mérida: Interviews with Participants in the "Out from the Shadows" Campaign | The Road to Mérida: Interview with Dr. Francisco Fernandez, Anthropologist and Former Rector of Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán | The Road to Mérida: Interview with Al Giordano, publisher of Narco News | Bolivian Government Represses Coca Protests, Four Dead... So Far | Ed Rosenthal Medical Marijuana Trial Underway -- Judge Blocks Mention of Prop. 215, Has Trouble Seating Jury | Canadian Prime Minister Promises Motion on Decriminalization as Courts Continue to Chip Away at Marijuana Laws | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Souder Pushes Partial HEA Reform, Frank to Reintroduce Drug Provision Repeal Bill | Newsbrief: Racine Caves Before the Ravers | Newsbrief: MPP "War on Drug Czar" Continues -- State Reacts to Allegations | Newsbrief: 12 Dead in Brazil as Drug Police Raid Shantytowns | Newsbrief: Mexican Soldiers Bust Narcs | Newsbrief: Colombian President Seeks Iraq-Like Mobilization Against Traffickers | Newsbrief: Some Colombian Terrorists May Be More Equal Than Others | Newsbrief: Alaska Lieutenant Governor Disqualifies Marijuana Legalization Petition Signatures, Proponents Vow Fight | Newsbrief: Return of the RAVE Act | Newsbrief: Ecstasy Rarely Kills, British Study Finds | Alan Shoemaker Ayahuasca Legal Defense Fund Needs Support | Media Scan: Washington on Forchion, Cockburn on Rosenthal, Forbes on Walters, Szasz on Drug Medicalization, Bruce McKinney, GAO on DARE | DC Job Opportunity at DRCNet -- Campus Coordinator | The Reformer's Calendar
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