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THE SAN JUAN STAR
CRB: English Exam Is 'Reasonable' to Get Pell Grant
by Robert Friedman
October 20, 1998
©Copyright 1998 The San Juan Star
WASHINGTON - Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló said
Monday that requiring Puerto Rican students to pass an English exam to qualify
for a Pell Grant was a "reasonable" proposal.
He was commenting on a bill filed by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., which included
possible congressional legislation to condition federal education funds
to the island, "including English instruction requirements for federal
Pell grant recipients."
Although the legislation will not be considered in this Congress, which
could end today, its introduction is a way of expressing concerns of some
members of Congress over federal funding for the island. Besides the Burton
measure, another bill was introduced that indicates a phase-in of federal
taxes for the island under commonwealth.
That bill, introduced with minimum fanfare by Rep. Phil English, R-Pa.,
would require a Treasure Department report on federal program costs to the
island and the possibility of Congress imposing federal taxes in Puerto
While introducing the bill on Oct. 9, English said the federal "subsidization
of the current commonwealth relationship...must end one way or the other"
and proposed a federal tax phase-in.
Romero said the notion of federal taxes for Puerto Rico, whether the
island becomes a state or not, was gaining ground in Congress.
The Barton bill, meanwhile, also filed on Oct. 9, calls for an Education
Department study and subsequent report on the availability of English language
instruction in the island's public schools.
In a statement accompanying the bill, Burton said that "the federal
government needs to know if it is subsidizing an education system in which
the students of Puerto Rico, who want greater access to English language
education, are being denied the opportunity."
The bill says that "it is imperative for Congress, which presides
over the present commonwealth system, to promote English for the student
citizens of Puerto Rico."
The suggested Pell Grant English requirement would jibe with the Rosselló
administration's policy to turn out bilingual citizens, Romero said. "I
don't think it is something that should, or would, be required immediately,"
the resident commissioner said.
In fiscal year 1997, Puerto Rico received $833.8 million in federal funds
from the Department of Education.
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