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The new chairman of the House Budget Committee said last Monday that the House will probably keep fiscal 1986 education spending at current levels--without allowing for inflation.

The next day, however, the House Education and Labor Committee sent the budget committee a recommendation to allow the Education Department's current $17.9-billion budget to rise at the rate of inflation next year. The committee turned back a Republican effort to freeze elementary, secondary, and vocational education aid at the 1985 level with no adjustment for inflation.

The budget panel chairman, Representative William H. Gray 3rd, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said that pressure to reduce the deficit will probably prevent the Congress from increasing--or maintaining at current levels--education spending next year.

"It is unlikely" that there will be any increase for inflation, Representative Gray said, speaking at the legislative conference of the Council of Great City Schools. "We want to maintain at least the funding level in 1986 that we had in 1985."

He predicted, however, that the House would not vote to eliminate the new $75-million magnet-schools program, as the Administration and the Senate Budget Committee have proposed.

The Senate panel has recommended a freeze for the major feder-al elementary- and secondary-education programs.

William Bradford Reynolds, the controversial chief of the Justice Department's civil-rights division, has been slated for a promotion by his new boss.

Attorney General Edwin Meese 3rd, who previously served as counselor to President Reagan, announced this month at his first press conference following Senate confirmation his intention to elevate Mr. Reynolds to associate attorney general, the third highest post at the department.

According to a spokesman for the department, Mr. Reynolds will advise Mr. Meese and the department's second-ranking official, Deputy Attorney General-designate D. Lowell Jensen, primarily on criminal matters. Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Jensen must both be confirmed by the Senate before assuming their new positions.

During his tenure as assistant attorney general for civil rights, Mr. Reynolds has provoked the wrath of many black leaders and civil-rights advocates for opposing race- and gender-conscious affirmative-action plans and the busing of students for desegregation purposes.

Mr. Meese has not yet decided upon a replacement for Mr. Reynolds at the civil-rights division, according to Amy Brown, a spokesman for the department. Charles J. Cooper, an assistant to Mr. Reynolds responsible for education and housing litigation, and Bruce Fein, a former clerk for U.S. Supreme6Court Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist who has also served in the civil-rights division, are said to be among the top contenders for the job.

Manuel J. Justiz will leave his post as director of the National Institute of Education on March 31. He will be replaced temporarily by the administrator of the National Center for Education Statistics, Emerson J. Elliott, the Education Department announced last week.

Mr. Justiz, who had already made known he would resign but did not set a date until last week, will remain indefinitely at the department as a consultant to Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. Mr. Justiz, who was picked to head the nie in October 1982, served longer than any other chief of the 13-year-old agency.

Mr. Elliott, who will retain his post at the nces while serving as interim head of the nie, has been acting director of the research institute three times and has held top positions in the Education Department and the Office of Management and Budget in his 27 years of government service.

Meanwhile, Robert Billings, the director of the department's 10 regional offices, said last week that he will resign from his post, effective May 1, to allow Mr. Bennett to make his own choice for the position. But Mr. Billings, co-founder of the Moral Majority, the coalition of fundamentalist Christians, indicated in an interview that he may stay on at the department in another position.

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