Reagan Advisers Say Yes To Bell On Foundation
Washington--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell has won over more conservative members of the Reagan Administration in his attempt to gain approval of a plan to turn the Education Department into a foundation that would retain many of the largest functions of the department, according to a memorandum sent to the President and several Cabinet members last week.
The Secretary's proposal, which has been approved by a task force of high-ranking officials close to the President, would transfer certain education programs, such as impact aid and Indian education, to other federal agencies. Most of the department's current functions, however, would remain in a $10.7-billion national education foundation, the document said.
For the full text ofthe memo, see page 10.
The "Presidential decision memorandum," a copy of which was made available to Education Week, was prepared by the task force for a discussion scheduled for last Friday between the President and the Cabinet council on human resouces. The council, which is made up of the secretaries of several domestic agencies, was scheduled to evaluate the proposal and make a recommendation to the President. Administration sources said President Reagan may make a final decision on the fate of the department this week. The Administration is planning to have a legislative proposal ready to send to Congress before the Christmas recess, sources said.
Task-force members who reportedly approved the foundation include Edwin Meese III, the President's counselor; Martin Anderson, the domestic policy adviser; and Edwin L. Harper, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Those officials had been divided over whether to support the foundation proposal or an alternative proposal that would have eliminated a federal education office entirely, dispersing its functions to other agencies, Administration sources said.
Foundation Concept Prevailed
According to the document, the foundation concept prevailed because, among other reasons, it:
"May be an acceptable alternative for 21 Senators and 176 Representatives up for reelection this year who voted to establish the department.
"Provides a potentially acceptable alternative for other committee leaders and members of Congress who voted for the department.
"Will meet less resistance from education profession and interest groups than the other options."
The document also notes that the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that would have jurisdiction over a bill to abolish the department voted in 1979 for its establishment.
'Less Difficult Position'
Senator William V. Roth Jr., Republican of Delaware, and Representative Jack Brooks, Democrat of Texas, "will be in a far less diffficult position if they are asked to support a foundation as opposed to total dispersal," according to the document.
Neither Mr. Roth nor Mr. Brooks was available for comment.
The decision memorandum was said to be the result of several months of work by the task force. The group reportedly was formed when White House officials became dissatisfied with the 91-page memorandum originally prepared for the President by Secretary Bell and other department officials.
That Aug. 4 memorandum, which strongly recommended a foundation, also examined the dispersal option along with two other possibilities--a sub-Cabinet-level education agency and a merger of education with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The August document reportedly was unacceptable to the Administration because it dismissed the dispersal option, which many Administration officials favored, without a thorough examination, sources said.