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Federal File: Undersecretary Sanders; Alexander debunks Summitt rumors; Carnes is back; Cavazos on the Hill; And on the Bush

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Sources on Capitol Hill and in the Education Department say that Ted Sanders, superintendent of education in Illinois and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is the leading candidate for the post of undersecretary of education.

Mr. Sanders declined to comment on the rumors last week, and his aides and Education Department officials would confirm only that he is being considered for the department's number two position.

A department spokesman said that the undersecretary's job is one of several for which ed officials have forwarded a choice to the White House. Officials said previously that it was likely to be the first education post filled by the new Administration.

A spokesman for New Jersey Education Commissioner Saul Cooperman said news reports that he had been offered the undersecretary's job and turned it down are false. Mr. Cooperman was asked early in the interview process if he would be interested, and told the federal officials he wanted to stay in New Jersey, the spokesman said.

Ever since George Bush was elected last fall with a pledge to become the "education President" and a promise to convene an "education summit," it has been rumored that Mr. Bush had asked former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to organize the event.

But Mr. Alexander, who was here last week at a press conference on a new study of mathematics and science achievement, said he has not received such an assignment.

And, he said, if he were to advise Mr. Bush on the issue, "my advice would be not to do it."

In the wake of the reports of the forthcoming summit, Mr. Alexander said, he has been deluged with letters from people "asking how to get on it."

"There isn't a coliseum big enough to hold just the Washington education representatives," he said.

Former Deputy Undersecretary Bruce M. Carnes is back on the Education Department's payroll, but he isn't working there.

Mr. Carnes is helping his former boss, William J. Bennett, set up the new Office of National Drug Policy.

Mr. Carnes left his political post in September and was rehired by ed in December as director of the Administrative Resource Management Service, which performs office-management functions.

He was recently "detailed" to the White House, a common practice that the President's office uses to increase its staff without increasing its own budget.

When asked if Mr. Carnes had been rehired by ed with the White House job in mind, John Walters, an aide to Mr. Bennett, said, "I wouldn't say that."

But, he added, "that's how we were able to get him."

An Education Department spokesman said Mr. Carnes applied for reinstatement to the Civil Service before Mr. Bennett was named to be the first federal "drug czar."

Mr. Carnes was a civil servant at the National Endowment for the Humanities when Mr. Bennett was its director, and followed him to ed when he was named secretary of education.

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos recently surprised observers at his first official appearance on Capitol Hill by staying through most of a routine hearing instead of testifying and running, as is usual with officials of his stature.

"In the 26 years I've been in the Senate, this is a first," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee.

Mr. Kennedy invited the Secretary to share the podium with the senators, which he did, briefly. He then joined his wife in the audience.

The Jan. 27 hearing served as a forum for witnesses to plug Smart Start, the early-childhood-education program proposed by Mr. Kennedy, and to urge federal initiatives to alleviate teacher shortages.

Mr. Cavazos discussed the Administration's education agenda, giving virtually the same speech he made last month to teachers attending George Bush's inauguration.

Mr. Kennedy reacted favorably to the Secretary's expression of support for early-childhood education.

But he criticized the Education Department's 1990 budget request--which calls for essentially the same funding level it had in 1989--and prodded Mr. Cavazos on the issue of whether Mr. Bush's revised budget would recommend additional funding.

Mr. Cavazos told the panel that he hoped "many of the things the President talked about in the campaign" would be reflected in the budget Mr. Bush was to unveil this week.

He was a little more specific on a recent episode of the television program "Face the Nation," where he said he was "fighting" for more money.

His spokesman said Mr. Cavazos met early last week with officials from the Office of Management and Budget to discuss his spending requests.

--jm & rr

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