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Federal File: Galluping to Conclusions; Asbestos in Education; A New Director

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In his statement upon receiving the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education last week, President Reagan demonstrated that just about any political viewpoint can be reinforced by the selective use of statistics.

The President used the results of the 1982 Gallup Poll on education to underscore his assertion that the commission's report was "consistent with" his own view of a diminished federal role in education.

The public held similar views, Mr. Reagan contended, based on the poll's finding that a majority favored less influence from the federal government on the public schools.

Indeed, 54 percent of those surveyed in the poll said the federal government should have "less influence in determining the educational program of the local public schools."

But the President chose not to cite another of the survey's findings vis a vis the federal role in education. In responses to a question about where additional federal money should be directed, education was ranked first. A total of 55 percent of those polled ranked education first, second, or third in priorities for federal spending, along with health care and aid to the poor.

Late last month, the General Services Administration published a list of 35 federal buildings nationwide that may pose a significant health hazard to their occupants because of the presence of friable, or easily crumbling, asbestos.

Included in that list was the federal property located at 400 Maryland Ave. in Southwest Washington--more commonly known as the Education Department.

According to Peter Gagnon, director of the department's facilities-management division, several years ago the gsa conducted a survey of all the buildings it administers, including ed "At that time, the only friable asbestos that they found here was in the area of the Horace Mann Learning Center," which is located on the building's main floor, he said.

"Right now, they're worried that workmen may have disturbed the asbestos in the course of general maintenance since then," he added.

The gsa reportedly is seeking more than $250,000 in emergency funds to hire a contractor, determine whether a significant health risk still exists, and remove the material if necessary.

The National Council on Educational Research, like the agency it sets policy for--the National Institute of Education--has had trouble keeping directors recently.

The council's previous executive director, Robert W. Sweet Jr., was so vociferous in his disputations over control of the federal educational research agenda that he was fired.

Mr. Sweet was also the subject of criticism because his background in education was limited. Richard LaPointe, the official recently nominated for the post, includes among his qualifications four years as superintendent of schools in Contra Costa County, Calif., and seven years as a teacher and administrator in Oakland, Calif.

--tm and ew

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