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Federal File: Finn's facets; White House visit; Parochial motives

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Chester E. Finn Jr. has been busily lengthening his resume.

The former assistant secretary of education is a professor at Vanderbilt University, director of the Educational Excellence Network, chairman of the governing board for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and a member of President Bush's advisory panel on education policy.

Now, he has another title: acting director of the Madison Center, a think tank founded by former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett and the author Allan Bloom.

Mr. Finn admitted that there is "not at the moment very much to do,'' as the center is in a "regrouping mode" following the departure of its first two presidents, Mr. Bennett and John Agresto, and the depletion of its initial grants.

But Mr. Finn noted one tangible benefit: a portrait of James Madison on his office wall.

President Bush last week granted an audience with John Porter, superintendent of the Detroit schools, and Lawrence Patrick, president of the city's board of education.

A spokesman for Representative Bill Schuette, the Michigan Republican who arranged the meeting, said the educators discussed their reform ideas with Mr. Bush.

A Detroit school official noted that Mr. Patrick represents a rare breed: He is black, Republican, and successfully campaigned last year for an important office. He has also become a regular speaker at education conferences hosted by the Administration and conservative groups.

The sponsors of S 1540, which would provide grants to consortia for foreign-language programs, argued at an Oct. 31 hearing that the bill would improve American competitiveness.

But it is probably no coincidence that the Critical Languages and Area Studies Consortium precisely fits the bill's eligiblity criteria.

Founding members of the consortium, which sent two witnesses to the hearing, are two Massachusetts private schools and the Experiment in International Living, a Brattleboro, Vt., teacher-training organization.

The primary sponsor of the bill is Senator James M. Jeffords, who said Representative Peter Smith, a fellow Vermont Republican, had introduced a companion bill. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, is an original co-sponsor.--rr, ws, & jm

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