'Right Wing' Prompted Firing, Former E.D. Official Claims
Washington--William C. Clohan Jr., who was dismissed as undersecretary of education in the U.S. Education Department earlier this month, has charged that pressure from the "right wing, both within and outside of the government" prompted the Administration to fire him.
The former second-in-command of the Education Department (ed), whose resignation was requested by the White House on April 7, said he suspected Administration officials were responding to recent demands by conservative leaders that Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell resign.
"There was a perception that the Secretary and I masterminded the [proposal to turn the Education Department into a] foundation in order to preserve the department," he said, adding that his own moderate political views made him "a mark."
He said the Administration has been under "incredible pressure in general, and education has been a target. We've not [yet been able to] dismantle the department. ... There was a general need to eliminate a moderate, and I was the handiest moderate around."
Speaking to reporters at his home here, Mr. Clohan declined to blame his dismissal on infighting among top ed officials, although he said that the department "got more than its share of far-right political appointees."
The 33-year-old Mr. Clohan said he was never given a reason for his dismissal, although "it was implied that they didn't have confidence in my ability to espouse the Administration's proposals."
'Not a Team Player'
He disputed the suggestion from some Administration officials that he was "not a team player," saying that he had "never done anything to try to undermine the Administration."
His loyalty to the Administration had been questioned by political conservatives, Mr. Clohan said, because of his former position as counsel to Republican members of the House Committee on Education and Labor. During his three years in that post, he had helped draft some of the legislation that the Administration has sought to alter.
He said he suspected that the event that "triggered" the dismissal was a statement to reporters about the President's approval of a tuition tax-credit plan. Criticism of that statement was unfair, he said, because the Administration's plan already had been reported in the press. (See Education Week, March 31.)
Mr. Clohan maintained that he had kept any dissenting views about Administration policies to himself, although he spoke freely about some of them last week.
Based on his Congressional experience, Mr. Clohan said, he knew the Administration would have difficulty achieving reductions in the federal budget for education programs while, at the same time, proposing major changes in the programs. "Any time you cut the budget, you are jeopardizing program changes, because the special-interest groups lump the two together," he said.
He also questioned the political wisdom of proposing bills to abolish the department and to provide tuition tax credits during the current session of the Congress.
Mr. Clohan said that many members of Congress who had voted in favor of the creation of the department were surprised to find that special-interest groups--both liberal and conservative--had included that issue in their ratings of Congressmen. "They don't want to have to vote on that issue again," he said.
And although he supports the concept of tuition tax credits, Mr. Clohan said he did not consider such a plan to be "enactable" this year. "The proponents ought to be very careful. If it gets defeated this year, the Congress could put it aside for many years," he said.
Mr. Clohan said he was unsure what his next position would be, although he said it was unlikely that he would return to a Congressional staff position. "I would like to remain in education," he said.