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School-Board Members Support Abolishing E.D.

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Washington—Although the official position of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is one of strong support for retaining the cabinet-level Department of Education, an informal poll conducted by the association's monthly journal says that the publication's readers are--by a 2-to-1 margin--in favor of dismantling the department.

Abolish Department

The NSBA, a federation of 50 state school-boards associations, is a member of a coalition of education groups that is fighting the Reagan Administration proposal to abolish the department.

The NSBA's national monthly magazine, The American School Board Journal, carries a disclaimer saying that opinions expressed in the publication "do not necessarily reflect positions" of the NSBA. The journal has approximately 55,000 readers--most of them school board members and superintendents.

Although the results of the poll are scheduled to be published in the December issue, association officials were said to be circulating the results last week in order to avert criticism that the two positions are in conflict.

"The poll represents the views of the people who answer the poll, no one else," said Thomas A. Shannon, the executive director.

"Of 90,000 school-board members sitting on 16,000 school boards, there are inevitably going to be differences of opinion."

Poll Not Scientific

Mr. Shannon also pointed out that the magazine's poll, which asked readers to respond to the question, "To kill or not to kill ed?" by mailing in a postcard, "is not [meant to be] statistically correct."

Jerome Cramer, the publication's managing editor, said numerous responses "seemed to be based on board members' feelings about 50 years of federal intervention in education, which they have historically been against."

He would not disclose the number of respondents to the poll, although he said response was small compared with the number of readers. He added that the magazine conducts similar polls of readers' opinions on controversial issues each month and that the number of responses is usually less than 500.

Against Policy

On several occasions, the polls have produced results contrary to NSBA policy.

Mr. Cramer said a poll conducted four years ago showed that readers were against creating the department by a 2-to-1 margin, in spite of the organization's official support of the idea.

'Single Block Grant'

Last August, the results of a poll on education block grants--a concept opposed by the association--showed that "42 percent of all respondents...would like all federal education money to be given to the states and local school boards in a single block grant."

Mr. Shannon said nsba has supported a cabinet-level position for education since 1978, when 76 percent of the organization's governing body voted in favor of creating the department.

He also acknowledged that "there are some...who oppose [the department]." State associations in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Kansas are among those who would prefer dismantling the department, he said.

Members Favor Dismantling

Prominent school-board members, and former school-board members, who favor dismantling include:

  • Dan C. Alexander Jr., school-board president in Mobile, Ala., who is using a direct-mail marketing campaign to promote abolition of the department;
  • Gary L. Jones, until very recently a school-board member in Fairfax County, Va., who is the department official in charge of the Administration's dismantling efforts; and
  • Jean Tufts, a former NSBA president who is now the Administration official in charge of education programs for the handicapped.

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