The House and Senate are nearing a compromise on conflicting versions of legislation that would expand education savings accounts.

Lawmakers met late last week and tentatively agreed to the Senate version that would let parents deposit $2,000 annually for their children's education expenses and get a tax break, spokesmen for the negotiators said.

A 1997 law created education savings accounts, which are similar to individual retirement accounts, but set the deposit maximum at $500 and restricted their use to higher education. The House and Senate bills each would raise the deposit maximum and broaden the use of the accounts to primary and secondary education at public and private schools. However, the House version had a higher deposit maximum of $2,500.

Negotiators still have to hammer out deals on teacher testing standards, education block grants for states, and other controversial parts of the bill.

A final agreement could be reached as early as this week, the spokesmen said. Lawmakers are aiming to vote on the bill and send it to the President by the July 4 congressional recess. President Clinton has threatened a veto, claiming the legislation would favor higher-income families and drain spending from public schools.

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