Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was among the first to offer a positive assessment of William J. Bennett upon his nomination as Secretary of Education last January.
But Mr. Bennett's performance since then has caused Mr. Shanker, the president of the 610,000-member union and an increasingly high-profile figure in the reform movement, to reconsider his expressed regard for the Secretary.
"I think what Bennett is doing is horrible, and he ought to see it,'' Mr. Shanker told United Press International last week.
"He has made a lot of headlines, and almost all of the headlines have been blunders," he said.
"It looks like he is not interested in secondary and elementary schools at all," Mr. Shanker said. "It looks like he got off on the agenda of the extreme right."
Mr. Shanker has been considered generally supportive of Mr. Bennett, and the two have promoted some of the same ideas, such as the "professionalization of teaching."
Specifically, Mr. Shanker questioned Mr. Bennett's support of tuition tax credits, his hiring of two outspoken aides--Eileen M. Gardner and Lawrence A. Uzzell--who were subsequently pressured to resign, and his push for education-spending cuts and merit pay for teachers.
A spokesman for Mr. Bennett called the union leader's remarks "harsh and intemperate," saying they "certainly do not contribute to a healthy national conversation on this vitally important subject."
E.D. Data Questioned
The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee charged last week that the Education Department furnished his panel with "misleading information."
Before beginning his committee's mark-up of the Grove City civil-rights bill, Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California, commented upon the department's reply to his request for data on the number of children participating in the Chapter 1 program.
In a May 6 letter to Representative Hawkins, Anne M. Graham, the department's chief Congressional liaison, acknowledged that between the 1979-80 and 1982-83 school years, student participation in Chapter 1 programs declined by 700,000, or 13 percent, and that the program's budget fell 7 percent, without regard for inflation. But she also emphasized spending increases since then, at "about twice the rate of inflation."
Representative Hawkins questioned three key points in her letter: one, "the Administration is downplaying its responsibility for the significant budget reductions that occurred in 1981 and 1982"; two, the increases that have taken place since 1982 ... were in reality funding restorations made by the Congress despite President Reagan's call for budget cuts and block grants in subsequent budgets"; and, in fiscal 1985, despite recent increases, "Chapter 1 is still below the level of services provided in fiscal 1980" because of the deep cuts in the previous years.--jh