Senators Set To Confirm Cavazos as Secretary
By Julie A. Miller
Washington--The Senate is expected to confirm the nomination of Lauro F. Cavazos to be Secretary of Education in time for a swearing-in ceremony this week.
The Labor and Human Resources Committee unanimously approved the nomination late last week.
The senators gave Mr. Cavazos a warm welcome at his confirmation hearing, where the Texas Tech University president politely distanced himself from longstanding Reagan Administration positions on aid to--and the federal role in--education.
In contrast to the departing William J. Bennett--who has said that the federal role should be limited and that a Cabinet-level department is unnecessary--Mr. Cavazos said the federal government has a "very important" role to play in education.
"It is vital that we have a strong Education Department that speaks up for every citizen in the area of education," he added.
Mr. Cavazos said his highest priority as Secretary would be to "raise the awareness of this country of the critical need to educate all of its citizens."
"If individuals don't reach their potential, we have a problem as a society," he said. "We must all focus on this issue."
stay on as Secretary if George Bush were elected President.
But Democrats and some Republicans seized the opportunity to attack Mr. Bennett and the Administration's record on education, and urged the nominee to
Mr. Kennedy lambasted the Administration for proposing increases in education spending only in election years, and pressed Mr. Cavazos to pledge to discontinue that pattern.
The nominee responded that he could make no absolute promises, noting that Cabinet secretaries do not always have the last word on their department's budget.
However, he said, "I promise this committee, I promise this nation, that I will try to get the best funding possible for our Department of Education. ... I'll do the best I can to make it go up."
Funding Cuts Opposed
In answering written questions submitted by panel members, Mr. Cavazos specifically said he would not support funding cuts--proposed by the Administration in past years--for vocational-education programs or Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
He added, however, that he would have to study the issue before commenting on the merits of an Administration proposal to eliminate new contributions to the Perkins Loan program in favor of large increases in the Income-Contingent Loan program. Mr. Cavazos did say that he favored expansion of the "much more cost-effective" icl, which higher-education advocates have vigorously opposed.
He also avoided expressing an opinion on proposed cuts in library programs. He wrote only that "the department had to set priorities for funding," and that he supported the Administration's proposal to concentrate library funding on programs benefiting disadvantaged populations.
Mr. Cavazos backed off from a statement he made at a 1983 Congressional hearing that it would be a good idea to make Pell Grants an entitlement, calling his statement "the tunnel vision of a university president wondering how he will keep his students in school."
Given current budgetary problems, he said, "I don't think in 1989 that it's the way we should go, but I promise to work hard to get as much funding as possible" for the Pell program.
Mr. Cavazos said he disagreed with a statement by Mr. Bennett that bilingual-education programs have failed, but reiterated an opinion he had expressed in a magazine interview: that three years of bilingual education should be sufficient for most students. But he added that some students would need more time and that the decisions should be made locally.
At the hearing and in written responses, the nominee said he had not studied the department's proposal to bar institutions and lenders with high default rates from participation in student-loan programs. In his written statements, Mr. Cavazos added that the default problem could be eased if schools did a better job of preparing students for college and if colleges did more to retain their students.
Mr. Cavazos also said that increasing the availability of student aid should be a high priority, and that he favored proposals to allow parents to accumulate tax-free education savings with U.S. savings bonds.