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Charles L. Heatherly, one of a number of the so-called "New Right" conservatives appointed to posts in the Education Department by the Reagan Administration, has left his post as deputy undersecretary for management for a White House job.

On April 1, Mr. Heatherly became director of the White House Fellows program, where he will be responsible for introducing talented young professionals and academics to the top levels of government through year-long interships. Those familiar with the post describe it as a "plum" and "a lot easier" than his job at the department. Mr. Heatherly was traveling abroad last week.

Before joining the department, Mr. Heatherly edited "Mandate for Leadership," a policy report published in 1981 by the conservative Heritage Foundation that was highly influential within the new Reagan Administration. Among other things, the report called for the abolition of the Education Department.

Sources said last week that Mr. Heatherly left the department voluntarily. Another conservative staff member, Daniel Oliver, last year was forced out of his job as the department's general counsel, according to department sources, by Secretary Terrel H. Bell over ideological differences.

Ralph Olmo, the department's comptroller, has taken over Mr. Heatherly's duties temporarily.

Education Headed Up

American education is launched upon "a magnificent renaissance" after 20 years of nearly unbroken decline, and much of the credit for that turnaround rests with the National Commission on Excellence in Education, reports Secretary Bell in an article published in the April edition of Phi Delta Kappan.

The release of "A Nation At Risk," the commission's April 1983 report, "appears to have been the firebrand that ignited the national campaign for educational improvement," Mr. Bell said of his creation.

And the culmination of the panel's work, the national forum held in Indianapolis last December, "provided an arena for invigorating and productive discussions of the tangible steps being taken across the U.S. to improve schools," he added.

The Secretary's remarks linking the commission's report to the most recent wave of educational reform are likely to irk at least a few state educational leaders. Many have complained that Mr. Bell has given too much credit to the commission report and not enough to state educational improvement efforts that were launched, in some cases, years before the panel's creation.

Heady Lunch Plans

There would be such a thing as a free lunch if the American Food Service Association had its way.

During its annual legislative conference in Washington last month, the group passed a resolution urging the Congress to undertake a study to determine if a free lunch could be provided to all schoolchildren seeking one.

A bill awaiting a vote in the House would authorize the Agriculture Department to conduct such a study.--tt & tm

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