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Bell Says 'Moderate' Federal Role Accepted

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Washington--Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell told an audience of state education officials last month that he had won a two-year battle to establish a "moderate" federal role in education.

After much "debate and deliberations," the Secretary said, the Reagan Administration had "come a ways in arriving at some consensus about what the federal role ought to be."

The agreement was reached directly with President Reagan, who supported the Secretary's own views on the federal role over those of more conservative Administration aides and outside critics, Mr. Bell said.

Legislative Conference

The Secretary spoke at a joint legislative conference held annually by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Boards of Education. The friendly tone of the exchange with Mr. Bell this year was in contrast to the 1982 meeting, which was dominated by contention over the Administration's proposed one-third cut in the education budget and rumors of an impending tuition tax-credit proposal.

Although many of the officials again spoke in opposition to tuition tax credits--and to the Administration's new voucher plan--they also gave the Secretary a standing ovation when he entered the room. And they praised the latest proposed education budget, which is $3 billion larger than the one the President sought last year.

Mr. Bell admonished the group not to be so concerned about tax credits. The $300 maximum credit that would be available under the Administration's plan, he said, "doesn't seem to me to be any threat to the public schools."

But Calvin Frazier, the state superintendent of Colorado, predicted that the tax-credit and the voucher proposals would be defeated.

"I think we'll get over [them] and get back to how to strengthen our to-tal system of public education, with a strong private-education component," he said.

Mr. Frazier said his colleagues were expressing "more optimism" than they had in the past two years.

Focus on Education

"Just like the Secretary went through a battle with the Far Right, we at the state level had the same battles," Mr. Frazier continued. "The election last November marked a swing back to the middle, a focus on how education contributes to society," he said.

Education issues will also be visible during the 1984 Presidential election campaign, predicted the political columnist David Broder in an address to the group.

In the campaign, he said, "education should carry more importance because there is now a general feeling that education is an instrument of economic recovery. You can be sure that recent actions by the Administration on that front will be discussed. You can already see it in the standard speeches of the Democratic contenders."

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