Director of E.D. Women's Program Is Reassigned Amid Controversy
The director of the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) program, a frequent target of criticism from conservative Republicans in recent years, was temporarily removed from her job last week.
Leslie R. Wolfe, who had directed the women's program since 1979, has been "detailed" to the office of management in the Education Department, according a spokesman for the department.
The 90-day reassignment took effect on April 26, the WEEA program's deadline for new grant applications. Ms. Wolfe was officially notified of the change on Friday, April 23, according to the spokesman.
After failing to have the program folded into the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act, the Reagan Administration proposed, unsuccessfully, to eliminate the program's funding for the current fiscal year.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy-research organization, has characterized WEEA's policies as "more in keeping with extreme feminist ideology than concern for the quality of education." The Conservative Caucus, another lobbying group, has also criticized the program.
Ms. Wolfe's reassignment comes on the heels of an unsigned article in the April issue of Conservative Digest calling for her "swift dethronement."
Purportedly written by a "concerned" Education Department employee, the article claims that the WEEA program is "a money machine for a network of openly radical feminist groups."
The article criticizes Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell for "routinely" approving Ms. Wolfe's actions.
Anne Graham, a spokesman for the department, said that to her knowledge the article was not the cause of Ms. Wolfe's reassignment. She said that Ms. Wolfe's assignment to a "very important" task force on government fraud, waste, and abuse, had been contemplated for some time because of Ms. Wolfe's "strong background in management."
When reached for comment, Ms. Wolfe would confirm only the dates of notification and reassignment. But several of her supporters in the Education Department said she has no experience that would qualify her for her new job.
Another Education Department official, who does not support Ms. Wolfe, said that the Digest article had led the department to look very closely at the WEEA program.
Established by the Women's Educational Equity Act of 1974--which was reauthorized by Congress in 1978--to carry out activities that "provide educational equity for women," the program awards grants and contracts to develop materials and to create "model projects" promoting equal educational treatment for women and girls. Its current budget is $6 million.--M.L.W.