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Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has rejected a plea by House members to replace three members of the new governing board for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The 23-member board, appointed by former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, took office on Oct. 1.

In separate letters to Mr. Cavazos, 14 Democrats and Representative Bill Goodling, Republican of Pennsylvania, charged that three of Mr. Bennett's appointments violated Congressional intentions in establishing the new board.

The House members said that two of the appointees--Mark D. Musick, vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, and Herbert J. Walberg, professor of education at the University of Illinois--did not meet Congressional standards as testing experts.

A third appointment, that of Chester E. Finn Jr., represented a potential conflict of interest, the Democrats charged. As assistant secretary of education for educational research and improvement, they stated, Mr. Finn oversaw the assessment and played a key role in its transformation under the legislation that established the new board.

But Secretary Cavazos, in a letter to Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, denied that Mr. Musick and Mr. Walberg4were unqualified for their posts. As evidence, he included a list of organizations Mr. Bennett had consulted in making the appointments, as well as copies of the two members' resumes.

In addition, Mr. Cavazos said that the conflict-of-interest issues "have been thoroughly examined and legal counsel advises they have been resolved satisfactorily."

Following the election last week of George J. Mitchell of Maine to be Senate majority leader, attention on Capitol Hill has turned to the awarding of key committee posts in the 101st Congress.

Signaling one of the first major assignments being awaited by education lobbyists, Senate aides said last week that Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, would head the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over Education Department spending.

Mr. Harkin is also chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee's subcommittee on the handicapped. His elevation on Appropriations may help assuage the pain felt by special-education advocates over the election defeat of their most outspoken ally, Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut.

Mr. Weicker was ranking minority member on both the subcommittee on the handicapped and the education-spending panel.


President Reagan has signed into law the omnibus anti-drug bill, which expands drug-education programs and allows courts to cut off student-aid eligibility for drug offenders.

Mr. Reagan also has given his approval to a bill that requires uniform labeling of all art supplies and bars elementary schools from using supplies considered hazardous.

Another measure signed into law since the adjournment of the 100th Congress--the omnibus tax bill--includes a provision that makes interest on U.S. Savings Bonds tax-exempt for families with incomes below $60,000 if the earnings are used to meet college costs. It also delays for one year the possible taxation of certain fringe benefits offered to many top-level employees, such as school superintendents.

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