Correspondence Between Sen. Weicker and Bennett
April 17, 1985
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I have today heard Dr. Eileen Gardner and Mr. Lawrence Uzzell affirm their views on the federal role in education. These views, whatever their religious, philosophical, or personal grounds, are directly contrary to the laws you and your department are sworn to uphold.
What I find particularly offensive is that their ideology is aimed at the most frail in our society; those who by condition or illness need our special care. Such extremism has no place in the most senior levels of a Cabinet agency.
The views held by Dr. Gardner and Mr. Uzzell are more properly expressed personally or in a private setting. I would suggest, therefore, that they do just that. At the very least, it would be my recommendation to the Committee that no public monies be appropriated for their positions.
Disabled people, their parents and advocates, have enough of a burden without being told by federal officials that their disability is their own fault and/or their government should do nothing to help them.
Lowell Weicker Jr.
April 18, 1985
Dear Senator Weicker,
Thank you for your letter of April 17 expressing your strong views on the personal opinions of Dr. Eileen Gardner and Mr. Lawrence Uzzell.
As you know, neither was hired to represent the department in any public forum and neither was hired to report directly to me. Nor were they hired to be involved in any way with programs involving disabled Americans. I must add that their views in this area, of which I learned this week, are totally out of line with those of the Administration. I am committed to carrying out these programs aggressively and to the full extent of the law and I am looking forward to working with you in that regard.
You and others in the past few days have questioned why Dr. Gardner was hired. Gardner, who holds a doctorate in education from Harvard University, was hired to serve as a policy analyst in the newly created Office of Educational Philosophy and Practice, and in fact to be the most junior member of that office.
It was never intended that she would work on issues involving handicapped people, but rather on matters involving school effectiveness and school improvement. She has published a number of papers in this area and was formerly the senior education-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. She had also previously served the department as a panelist on the Secondary School Recognition Project initiated by Secretary Terrel Bell.
I was not previously familiar with the 1983 draft document prepared by Gardner from which you read at Tuesday's hearing. As I understand that document, it primarily reflects Gardner's own spiritual and religious views. I must observe, however, that several of the comments concerning handicapped issues strike me personally as insensitive and repugnant.
As you know, Mrs. Madeleine Will remains the department's chief spokesman and administrator on these issues or programs. I personally am fully committed, by philosophy and from my own personal experiences, to the programs authorized by the Congress, including those pursuant to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, enacted in 1975. This act is enabling millions of handicapped children to move beyond the limits they face and to reach their educational potential. I will continue to make sure that this law is aggressive-ly enforced.
Lawrence Uzzell was hired to work on the issue of parental choice in education--a key initiative of the Administration. He was not hired to advise me on programs dealing with handicapped persons. Uzzell holds several views not consistent with my own. For example, he would severely cut back federal research in education. I have traditionally tolerated a wide variety of views among my employees and associates. This toleration should not cause confusion about the policies of the depart-ment which I and others with public responsibility will clearly enunciate.
Of course, I find this whole episode deeply regrettable. In addition, I regret that Dr. Gardner's personal views were raised in a manner which has given quite unnecessary and grievous offense to millions of handicapped Americans. Her personal views, with which I obviously disagree, have been falsely imputed to the department and to me.
I hope that this fully satisfies your concerns regarding this unfortunate matter.
William J. Bennett