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The Congress is taking its first step in the debate over the future of the National Institute of Education, with the introduction of a bill to extend the life of the Education Department's research agency for a year.

The short-term authorization, which was to be introduced in the House late last week or early this week by Representative Pat Wil chairman of the House panel that reviews nie, would permit the completion of a Congressional study on the effectiveness of the nie and the National Center for Education Statistics. It would also allow for consultation between the department and the Congress, which has thus far been lacking, say Congressional aides.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee may begin action on the nie reauthorization by holding hearings on the House bill, said an aide to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the committee chairman.

Secretary of Education William J. Bennett is reportedly considering6the merger of the nie with the nces, a move that does not reCongressional approval.

Department spokesmen had no comment on Representative Williams's bill, which calls for the director of the institute to report directly to the Secretary rather than through an assistant secretary for research and attempts to depoliticize the nie oversight body, the National Council on Educational Research.

Under the terms of the bill, the 15-member ncer would be changed from a policy-setting body to an advisory panel, whose members would be picked by the Secretary instead of the President, as the current law requires.


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