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No encore for Bennett

Come next January, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett's critics in the education community won't have him to kick around anymore.

Last fall, Mr. Bennett said in an interview that he would consider extending his stint as Secretary if a Republican won the Presidential race in November.

"Maybe they'll ask me to stay on four more years and everybody in the education community can say, 'Terrific! Four more years!''' he said then.

But Mr. Bennett said last week that he would clean out his desk next winter even if Vice President George Bush, who locked up the G.O.P. nomination last week, were elected President.

In response to a reporter's questions, Mr. Bennett said he had discussed education issues with Mr. Bush, and finds it "great'' that the candidate wants to be an "education president.''

The reporter asked if that signaled an extended engagement for the Secretary.

"I don't think I'll be staying on as Secretary of Education,'' he replied.

Speculation about Mr. Bennett's future continues in Washington, where he has been touted by some as a possible Vice Presidential candidate.

The Secretary, who has said he does not expect to be offered a spot on the ticket, has said at various times that he might run for a gubernatorial or Senate seat. However, he has also said that he is more likely to return to public life "later than sooner.''


Why has Mr. Bennett decided not to seek reappointment as head of the department? Maybe he doesn't like the water there.

For the past two weeks, employees at the department's headquarters have been drinking bottled water at work.

The shift in the water supply came after workers complained last month that the building's fountains were giving off foul-tasting, orange-colored water.

A quick investigation by the General Services Administration found higher-than-normal levels of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, iron, and copper coming from the building's "chiller''--a device that cools tap water before it flows into drinking fountains.

Similar water-quality complaints last November forced the removal of the chiller, which was finally replaced last month after employees complained that the drinking water was too warm. Shortly after its replacement, however, the complaints began anew.

A GSA spokesman said his agency hopes to clear up the problem this week.
--JM & EF

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