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What U.S. schools need, then, is plenty of help. And teacher-turned-President Lyndon Johnson has galvanized Congress into doing something about it. In the past six months, Congress has smashed longstanding barriers and churned out the most significant series of education acts in the nation's history. As a consequence of this legislation and other bills now shaping up under federal auspices:
» The nation's public schools and some parochial schoolchildren for the first time will get direct federal aid. About $775 million will go this year to finance improvement projects that the schools themselves develop.
» College students will be able to get federal cash scholarshipsinstead of loans.
» A National Teachers Corp. will provide a pool of traveling teachers to help big-city systems with their slum schools.
» A network of regional educational research laboratories will go to work on stimulating ideas for new techniques in teaching, new concepts in school administration, new ideas in curriculums.
» A vastly enlarged work-study program will enable 100,000 youths to stay in high school and college while they work part-timewith the Federal Government paying 90% of their wages.
» A program will be launched to provide year-round preschool instruction and medical help for four-and five-year-olds; a similar project, designed to help "culturally deprived" high-schoolers prepare for college, will be organized on a summertime schedule.
» A Job Corps, already in operation in 62 camps, will be expanded to give problem kids (chiefly high school dropouts) remedial instruction and vocational help.
Nerve Center. The responsibility for directing the biggest part of this unprecedented involvement in the education affairs of the country falls to the Department of Health, Education & Welfare, which is run by Secretary John Gardner, 53. A onetime psychology professor, Gardner was president of the Carnegie Corporation, an educational foundation that has distributed $347 million in grants since 1911; he left that post this year to take the job at HEW. The man who is directly in charge of administering the Federal Government's education programs is Gardner's Commissioner of Education, Francis Keppel, 49, a dark, slight (5 ft. 10 in., 152 lbs.) intense bolt of activity. In three short years in Washington, Keppel has changed the Office of Education from custodian of highly forgettable statistics to the nation's most energetic nerve center of academic ferment.
Keppel's powers spread throughout the entire fabric of American education. He is the czar of school integration programs, and can trigger a shut-off of federal funds to any educational project where racial discrimination exists. As Assistant Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, he heads a committee that is studying the educational efforts of 43 federal agencies. He is chairman of a group that will propose more legislation on education next year, and he will have much to say about the direction of a new federal program for spreading scientific research grants among clamoring universities.