Election Results Seen as Helping the Position of Education
Washington--The Reagan Administration is likely to encounter increased resistance to its efforts to alter federal education policies once the newly elected members of the 98th Congress take office next January, observers of education matters predicted here last week.
Those predictions, they said, were based on strong showings by Democrats both nationally and at the state level and by the re-election last week of several key "friends of education" of both parties in the Congress.
"The indications now are that while we will see no radical changes, the issues that we care about will receive more support in the Congress," said Terry Herndon, executive director of the National Education Education (nea). "We still will have to deal with a hostile Administration, but the job will be much easier."
Dena G. Stoner, a lobbyist for the National School Boards Association (nsba), said, "It's still too early to tell, but the feeling is that the 98th Congress will be substantially less anti-education than the 97th." The Democrats won more than two dozen new seats in the House, bringing the party close to a solid 100-seat majority. Republicans, however, maintained their control of the Senate, with 54 seats.
At least five challengers managed to unseat incumbents in the Senate. Among the losing incumbents was Senator Harrison H. Schmitt, Republican of New Mexico and chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Resources, and Education appropriations subcommittee. Senator Schmitt is generally considered a moderate on social and fiscal policies.
Republicans offset that loss, however, by unseating four-term incumbent Senator Howard W. Cannon, Democrat of Nevada and ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees all science and technology legislation in the Senate.
In a race for a vacated Senate seat in New Jersey, Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg upset U.S. Rep. Millicent H. Fenwick, a Republican member of the House Education and Labor Committee.
In other Senate races that were closely monitored by the education community:
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, easily defeated his challenger, Ted Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City.
Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Education, Arts, and Humanities Subcommittee, managed to win a close race against former Vermont Secretary of State James A. Guest, a Democrat.
Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut, defeated U.S. Representative Toby Moffett, a Democrat. Both were considered by education associations to have favorable voting records.
Three Democratic members of the Senate Education and Labor Committee running this year breezed to easy victories. The 98th Congress will see the return of Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio, and Donald W. Riegle Jr. of Michigan.
The new Congress will also see the return of a substantial number of the current members of the House Education and Labor Committee. Twenty-six of the panel's 31 members won re-election, including both the chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, and the ranking minority member, John N. Erlenborn, Republican of Illinois.
Committee members who were upset in their bids for re-election included:
Representative Peter A. Peyser, Democrat of New York. Representative Peyser, a vocal advocate of increased financial aid for college students, lost to another incumbent member of Congress, Benjamin A. Gilman, a Republican, in a newly created district.
Representative Arlen Erdahl, Republican of Minnesota and a member of all three of the full committee's education-related subcommittees.
Representative Wendell Bailey, a first-term Republican of Missouri, who lost to another incumbent Congressman, Ike Skelton, a three-term veteran Democrat.
W. Eugene Johnston 3rd, Republican of North Carolina, who was defeated by the Democratic challenger, Charles R. Britt, an attorney and state party activist.
In another House race that educators monitored, David Armor, an analyst for the Rand Corporation best known for his research on "white flight" in desegregated school systems, was defeated by an incumbent Democrat, Representative Anthony C. Beilenson, in California's 23rd District.
Shortly after last Tuesday's elections, several influential Republican members of the Congress who won re-election--including House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois and Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana--said that they believed the public now wants President Reagan to modify his fiscal and social policies.
Despite those statements, both Mr. Herndon of the nea and Ms. Stoner of the nsba agreed it is highly unlikely that Mr. Reagan will significantly alter his efforts to cut spending for social programs.
"I don't think the President is capable of 'straying from the course,"' said Mr. Herndon. "I don't think that he has taken thoughtful positions, but rather has acted on impulse, so I expect to see much of the same from him in terms of his policies."
Ms. Stoner added that even if the new Congress differs with the President, it is likely that alternative measures sent to him "will be subject to veto after veto."
The question, she said, then becomes whether the moderate-to-liberal Republican Senators re-elected last week "will go along with the President as they did during the last session of Congress."
"If they have the courage to stand up to the President [and if] the Democrats maintain some sort of party loyalty, we might see some interesting developments," she said.
For example, Ms. Stoner said the Administration's attempt to combine existing vocational and adult-education programs into a single block grant to the states could be blunted by the new Congress. She also predicted that so-called "social issues" legislation involving organized prayer in schools and limits on busing for school desegregation might be in for a hard time.
Ms. Stoner also pointed out that Democratic gains in governorships across the nation last week will have an important effect on the final dispositon of the President's New Federalism proposal, which would "turn back" many education-related responsibilities now handled by the federal government to the states.
"During this last session of Congress the governors said to the President, 'Sure, we're willing to swap some of our programs with you,"' she said. "But now, many of the states that just elected new governors are in poor financial condition. Given that situation, combined with the changes in the governors' mansions, who knows where the New Federalism is now?"