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Federal File: Hawkins vs. choice; Bennett's resolution; Farewell to Wright

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Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, thinks the current debate on parental choice in education has been one-sided.

The California Democrat plans to respond next month by releasing a committee report on choice that will stress the views of opponents, aides said.

Mr. Hawkins fears open-enrollment programs will lead to segregation and elitism and worsen the situation of disadvantaged children.

During negotiations on last year's education-reauthorization bill, he staunchly--and successfully--resisted proposals to allow magnet-school grants to go to districts that are not using the magnet concept for desegregation.

Mr. Hawkins asked his staff last month to compile a report on the issue, and has sent one aide to Minnesota to get a closer look at that state's controversial choice program.

Aides said he was motivated by President-elect George Bush's promise to promote choice, as well as by increased attention to the topic by education reformers and the media, which he thinks has focused heavily on the views of choice advocates.

Aides said that Mr. Hawkins does not anticipate a legislative battle this year, but simply wants to publicize the arguments of choice opponents.

When Mr. Bush nominated him to be the first federal "drug czar," William J. Bennett vowed to do something that may prove to be almost as hard for him as persuading the Congress to cut education spending.

The former secretary of education promised to quit smoking cigarettes.

"You will not have a director of national drug policy who smokes," Mr. Bennett told reporters.

Although Mr. Bennett avoided smoking at official occasions during his tenure as Secretary, his habit was a well-known secret.

After he and Mr. Bush had addressed a group of teachers attending the inauguration, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos expressed his thanks for the service of Undersecretary Linus D. Wright and presented him with a plaque.

Mr. Cavazos said he tried to persuade Mr. Wright to stay on, but he had other commitments. The former Dallas school superintendent has been hired by a Dallas-based executive-search firm to bring in business in the education field.

"Don't go too far," Mr. Cavazos told him. "Now we can call you back and you can work for free."--jm

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