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The National Association of Elementary School Principals has presented its third annual Distinguished Service to Children Award to Frances Kelsey of Maryland.

Dr. Kelsey, 69, was honored for her successful crusade to prevent the marketing of the sleeping pill thalidomide in the United States.

In West Germany, where the sleep-inducing drug was developed, the use of thalidomide by pregnant women was linked to many birth defects in their infants.

Typically, the infants were afflicted with a condition called phocomelia and were born with one arm missing.

Dr. Kelsey was a medical officer in the Food and Drug Administration in Washington when the drug was submitted to the federal agency for clearance. Questioning the drug's safety, Dr. Kelsey refused to give her approval until tests had been made, despite pressure from manufacturers.

Because of Dr. Kelsey's determination, naesp officials said, the drug was never marketed in the United States. Previous winners of the award were Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, and Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine.

H. Ross Perot, the Texas computer magnate who headed the state's Select Committee on Public Education, reportedly spent $500,000 of his own money to help pay for the group's 10-month study.

The committee, which was appointed by Gov. Mark White, last month recommended the establishment of a career-ladder plan for teachers, the reduction of elementary class sizes, and numerous other reforms. By one estimate, the proposals could cost $19 billion over a five-year period. (See Education Week, March 28 and April 4, 1984.)

In an article in the Austin American-Statesman, Mr. Perot said he would spend "as much as it takes" to fight the coalition of educators that he says is seeking to weaken his recommendations by concentrating only on pay raises for teachers.

The committee received $68,000 to conduct the study. Most of Mr. Perot's money was spent on consultants.

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