Reagan Given Passing Grade By Conservative Think tank
Washington--The Heritage Foundation--the conservative research organization that last year presented the Reagan Administration with a book containing more than 2,000 separate recommendations for changes in existing federal policies--has issued the President a "report card" evaluating his first year's performance.
The evaluation, which gave the President a mixed review overall, is based on a 3,000-page, 20-volume book, Mandate for Leadership, that the foundation released just after the 1980 election.
Although a draft of the report, entitled The First Year, asserts that the Administration "should and could have accomplished more" throughout the executive branch, President Reagan received a 58 percent score in education policy. Of the 29 policy changes recommended last year for the Department of Education, the Administration took action on 17, according to the report. (See accompanying chart.)
Other agencies did not fare as well, in the foundation's estimation. The Department of Agriculture is criticized for not persuading Congress to eliminate the school breakfast and lunch programs. (These programs should be turned into block grants, the report says.)
Lack of New Programs
The lack of new programs for employment and training in the Labor Department is cited as a "failure." The Justice Department is criticized for its position supporting coverage of school employees under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, although its officials are praised for taking a position against school busing and for retreating on a previous position advocating free public education for illegal alien children.
Even the Department of Defense "has fallen far short of the goals" to "close the window of strategic vulnerability," the report says.
The Office of Management and Budget received the highest praise of any agency, mainly because the agency "was able to revise the fiscal 1981 and 1982 budgets"--cutting federal programs by more than $19 billion--in less than one month, the report says.
The "tremendous" changes in education policy accomplished this year range from passage of the modified block-grants package and efforts to abolish the Department of Education, to deregulation and the appointment of conservative individuals to department leadership positions, according to Onalee McGraw, a Heritage policy analyst who monitored the performance of the Department of Education.
Ms. McGraw, who was one of nine co-authors of the education chapter of Mandate last year, writes that her group recommended that the department fill positions "with individuals strongly committed to ... basic academic skills, and who oppose further federal support for 'humanistic' or psycho-social education activities."
She reports that personnel appointments in the Department of Education "generally reflect proper orientation." In fact, three of the co-authors of the education section of Mandate are now officials in the department. (See Education Week, Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.)
Regarding appointments, the report's authors consider the department unique. In most other agencies, the report states, "personnel problems typified by delayed appointments ... and by the appointment of individuals who fail to understand and accept the President's goals and policies" represent "the principal reason for the Administration's failure to meet the ... expectations" of the Heritage Foundation.
Ms. McGraw praises the Administration for "embark[ing] on a policy of deregulating virtually every major area [of education] under its jurisdiction." She gives Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell high marks for revoking "30 sets of rules governing 19 block-granted programs," the Lau regulations governing bilingual education, and Title IX regulations governing school dress codes.
Secretary Bell is also lauded for taking an "advocacy role on behalf of excellence .... He has established a National Commission on Excellence in Education ... [and he] has recommended spotlighting outstanding schools and colleges, encouraging school boards to adopt policies that embrace higher standards, and encouraging colleges and universities to adopt admission standards that will force high schools to increase commitments to academic excellence."
She cautions that "essential problems remain." The Administration has not acted on the Mandate recommendations to "tighten up" procedures for awarding grants and conducting independent evaluations, the report claims.
Ms. McGraw also takes issue with Secretary Bell's recommendation that the department be transformed into a foundation.
Arguments against the foundation, she writes, "center around the centralized federal power and policy focus that would remain intact within a foundation." For this reason, "many conservatives favor the concept of dispersing the various education functions among existing departments and agencies," the report says.