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Background of Secretary's Choice To Head Research Agency Draws Fire

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Washington--Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has selected as acting head of the office of educational research and improvement a conservative activist who played a supporting role in a controversial battle for control of the department's research programs in the early years of the Reagan Administration.

Patricia M. Hines assumed the high-level post last month without fanfare.

Education lobbyists and others have been sharply critical of the appointment.

"The thing that is of concern to me is that in her resume one doesn't see much to suggest that she has much experience with managing research operations," said Gerald Sroufe, governmental liaison for the American Educational Research Association. "The problem is not so much the ideology, but that [oeri] merits a chance to work under professional direction."

"Given the background she comes from, there's a little concern around here about the future of oeri," said a veteran senior employee of the research agency.

Critics said they are distressed even though Ms. Hines's appointment is temporary. They noted that she is technically a deputy assistant secretary, a post that does not require Senate confirmation, and thus could remain at oeri even if someone else is chosen to be permanent head of the agency.

"I'm not surprised, given that the movement conservatives' long-term agenda is to place their people in office and hold them there through the change of Administration," said Joe Schneider, executive director of the Council for Education Development and Research, which represents laboratories and centers supported by oeri "We can only hope that the next Administration sweeps them all out," he said.

Critics also suggested that Mr. Cavazos had been pressured by White House conservatives to hire Ms. Hines.

Mr. Cavazos "may have felt that it was the best thing to do under the circumstances and that he would have four years to set up his own staff" if he is asked to stay on in the next Administration, Mr. Sroufe said.

In an interview last week, however, Mr. Cavazos vigorously denied that suggestion.

"I haven't even heard that rumor before," he said. "That's not the way it works."

White House officials recommend candidates, but "there's no dictation from the White House," added the Secretary's spokesman, Mahlon Anderson.

John Roddy, an assistant to Ms. Hines, said he did not know of any attempt to pressure Mr. Cavazos, and rejected the charge that she is not qualified to head oeri

"I think the amount of time she spent at [the old National Institute of Education and the National Council on Education Research] rebuts that because that's research, the cutting edge of education research," Mr. Roddy said.

"As far as administration, if you can administer a large organization, you can administer a large organization, whether it's research or manufacturing products," he said. "She has administrative skills and has hired people with management experience."

Mr. Roddy also said Ms. Hines had promised that, whatever her personal views, "she would at all times reflect the views of the Secretary of Education."

Ms. Hines, who earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 1970 and a master's degree in that field from the University of Virginia in 1971, is a former high-school and college English instructor. She has also worked as a writer and public-relations specialist.

She was hired as a special assistant in 1982 by Robert W. Sweet, who was serving at the time as acting director of the National Institute of Education.

nie's functions were later absorbed into oeri

Mr. Sweet had become deputy director of nie in 1981, serving under Director Edward A. Curran. In his memoir, The Thirteenth Man, former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell described Mr. Curran and Mr. Sweet as being part of a group of "movement conservatives" who were forced on him by their allies in the White House and who tried to undermine his authority.

Mr. Curran was forced out of his job by Mr. Bell in 1982, after he failed to consult with the Secretary before sending a letter to the White House recommending the abolition of the nie

Mr. Sweet then became acting director, and soon after hired Ms. Hines.

She became an "nie associate" two months later, hired under a special noncompetitive authority designed to recruit outstanding research experts. But several employees and researchers who knew Ms. Hines said she continued to report directly to Mr. Sweet.

During Mr. Sweet's tenure, the nie began such projects as an examination of textbooks for evidence of hidden encouragement of "values clarification," a study debating whether "teaching is an art or a science," and a study of desegregation and achievement by black students that was based on the premise that "forced 'racial balance' busing amounts to discrimination against minorities."

Mr. Bell declined to nominate Mr. Sweet for the directorship, instead choosing the researcher Manuel Justiz.

At the same time that the Senate confirmed Mr. Justiz, it approved 12 new members of the National Council for Education Research, a panel that technically had oversight authority over nie but had functioned previously only in an advisory capacity.

Mr. Sweet persuaded the new chairman of the ncer, George Roche, to hire him as executive director. At its first meeting, in January 1983, the council passed a series of resolutions that effectively put Mr. Sweet back in charge of nie, with his own staff and an $834,000 budget.

Ms. Hines joined the council's staff that February.

In March, Mr. Bell succeeded in removing Mr. Sweet, who was given a job at the White House. But Ms. Hines stayed on, working with the council until 1986 and serving as its executive director during her last three months there.

Later, Ms. Hines was a special assistant to Gary L. Bauer, both as undersecretary of education and as White House domestic-policy adviser to President Reagan.

In July, she became deputy director of the White House Office of Policy Development.

Several other top posts in the department have been filled on an acting basis by Reagan Administration appointees who were already working in the sections of the agency they now direct.

One of them, Michelle Easton, who is acting deputy undersecretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, also worked at the department during Mr. Sweet's fight to control nie--as a special assistant to another official who was forced to leave the department because of his role in the incident.

Dan Oliver, then the department's general counsel, aided Mr. Sweet by writing a memorandum supporting the legality of his bureaucratic takeover.

Ms. Easton directed the Justice Department's missing-children program before coming to the Education Department in 1987.

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