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Conservatives Nominated for N.I.E. Grant Panel

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Washington--Several conservative scholars and political activists who have criticized the activities of the Education Department may soon be assigned by that department to review proposals for federal grants, according to information obtained from the National Institute of Education (nie).

The director of the institute, Edward A. Curran, has recommended that the nie expand its current list of grant-proposal reviewers to include at least 100 additional people--who would be paid by nie to evaluate unsolicited requests for a total of up to $1 million in grants for 15 to 20 federal projects.

Well-Known Scholars

Many of the new reviewers are well-known scholars with expertise in various areas of educational practice and school finance. The list of reviewers, however, also includes several authors whose politically conservative views on the "education establishment" have been promoted by the Heritage Foundation, the public-policy research institute here.

E.G. West, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, is the author of a Heritage-funded study advocating tuition tax credits as a way to improve the American educational system. Raymond English, a contributor to the foundation's conservative policy manual, Mandate for Leadership, is the director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative lobbying organization. Eugenia Froedge Toma, a professor at California State University in Northridge, advocated the elimination of federal funding of education in a Heritage book, Agenda for Progress.

Others among the new reviewers are well-known critics of the federal role in education, including Max Rafferty, the California superintendent of education when President Reagan was governor of that state, and Roger Freeman, a scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who has been arguing against federal education activity since the 1950's.

Additional New Reviewers

An administrator at Liberty Baptist College in Virginia, an institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Christian political activist, is also included, as is an editor of a conservative newspaper published by the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Still others include potential reviewers who listed as their qualifications for the positions as "citizen activist" or "parent activist."

nie officials have defended the practice of increasing the pool of reviewers from the current 200 as a way of receiving a broader range of opinions about the quality of grant proposals.

The list also includes new reviewers from some of the nation's most prestigious institutions, including the University of Chicago, and Yale, Harvard, and Columbia Universities.

Some staff members of the institute, however, have expressed concern that some political activists are being "slipped into" the review process as a way of influencing the way issues are studied.

Controversial Subjects

They point out that nie, according to plans prepared by the director's office, is to begin studying such controversial subjects as vouchers, home schooling, tuition tax credits, and judicial activism in education. (See Education Week, April 14.)

Because of the nature of education research, the sources said, the methods of studying those subjects could have an effect on the findings regarding the divisive issues they involve, the sources said.

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