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The Clinton administration on Friday charged that Congress is holding up education spending bills that could cost 50,000 teaching jobs nationwide next year - and cut federal school funding to Utah by $8.7 million.

But Republicans say congressional Democrats and President Clinton have most of the blame for slowing approval - and they dispute the losses estimated by the administration.Education Secretary Richard Riley released estimates Friday that said Utah would lose $8.7 million of the $49.6 million it now receives in six key federal school programs under terms of a current stopgap spending bill that expires March 15.

Until final education spending bills pass into law, the current "continuing resolution" allows spending through September at only the lowest levels for education programs included either in House-passed bills or the administration's budget.

Passage of final spending bills has been blocked in the Senate, where Democrats have threatened a filibuster over striker replacement issues in spending bills that combine both labor and education issues. And education funding is part of the overall battle over whether and how to balance the budget in seven years.

Riley said, "This continuing resolution neither continues the level of investment we need in quality education nor resolves the vital question of how much assistance will go to local schools."

He said that leaves many local school districts guessing about whether they can renew teacher contracts for next year - even though many states by law require decisions on such renewals in the next few weeks.

Riley said the problem also comes as the Education Department figures about a million extra students will enter public schools next year (including a projected 6,000 more students in Utah, increasing its overall enrollment to 483,000).

He said that would necessitate hiring 50,000 new teachers nationwide - but terms of the continuing resolution would cut about that many teachers instead.

Elizabeth Morra, spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, disputed both the administration's numbers and its blame of Republicans for any problems.

"Every week I've got one of these (Education Department studies) coming out. It's just a lot of fear-mongering. They are trying to blame all this on Republicans, but it's Democrats who are threatening the filibuster in the Senate," she said.

"We have also taken a responsible approach in seeking to balance the budget over 7 years, but the president's vetoes have made that difficult," she said.

While the administration is estimating a $3 billion loss to education from the current continuing resolution, Morra said the committee has found determining such specific numbers is impossible or misleading because many issues are still in flux. She says any cuts would likely be much lower than Riley says.

The administration estimates say Utah's share of "Title I" funds for improving skills of poor students would fall under the current continuing resolution from $31.98 million to $26.5 million.

Its "Goals 2000" funding for local school improvement would drop from $2.59 million to $2.18 million; safe and drug-free schools funds would drop from $3.08 million to $2.31 million; and bilingual education money would drop from $664,777 to $435,404.

Also, vocational education funds would drop from $10.04 million to $8.39 million, and federal adult education funds would drop from $1.27 million to $1.1 million.