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Federal File: 'Only on drugs'; No informants wanted

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When William J. Bennett was Secretary of Education, his critics often faulted him for spending too much time talking about education--to the media and to a vast array of organizations, many with no obvious tie to the field.

Those critics may be pleased to hear that he won't be doing it any more.

Mr. Bennett, now the director of federal drug-control policy, has decided to make no more public statements on education, according to his spokesman, Larry Cirignao.

"He only talks about drugs now," Mr. Cirignao said when asked if Mr. Bennett would comment on an education issue. "We're not doing much media at all, and only about drugs."

A recent speech about drugs has caused the current Secretary of Education, Lauro F. Cavazos, some consternation.

He was addressing a drug-free-schools conference on the department's plans to enforce governmentwide regulations requiring grantees to certify that they are drug-free, rules the department interpreted as applying to Pell Grant recipients.

Some news reports quoted Mr. Cavazos as saying that the Education Department "would be relying on the public for tips" on which Pell Grant recipients might be using illegal drugs.

A department spokesman, James Bradshaw, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the department would refer such tips to investigators, but would probably not move to revoke a student's grant without a conviction.

However, the Secretary did not mention "tips," although the remark apparently appeared in some drafts of his speech.

And Mahlon Anderson, a spokesman for Mr. Cavazos, said Mr. Bradshaw was "off base."

When auditors review an institution's student-aid programs, they will check to see that grant recipients have signed the required pledges to remain drug-free, but there are no plans to solicit tips on drug abusers, Mr. Anderson said.

"We don't have a drug army to audit the millions of Pell Grant recipients, nor is there any move to create one," he said.

When asked about the issue April 9 at an Education Writers Association conference, Mr. Cavazos denied plans to solicit informants, and implied that he didn't particularly care for the drug-free workplace regulations.

"All we're doing is complying with the law that was passed," Mr. Cavazos said. "I don't know if it's fair, but we have to comply with the law."

He said the department does not "have the regulations written," adding, "Frankly, I don't know how we're going to do it."--jm

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