Hawkins Predicts Conflicts Will Spur Cavazos To Resign
Washington--A leading Democratic lawmaker said last week he believes Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos will resign soon because his views on effective education policy conflict with the President's political agenda.
Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said Nov. 14 that, in his opinion, Mr. Cavazos, the first Hispanic Cabinet member, will "not stay around very long."
Mr. Cavazos, however, countered the following day by saying the California Democrat's remarks were "unfounded and the allegations misleading."
Mr. Hawkins made the remarks during a question-and-answer session that followed a scathing attack on the President's education initiatives he made during breakfast meeting at the National Press Club.
In a speech entitled "Grading the 'Education' President," Mr. Hawkins charged that "There is not a single accomplishment, initiative, or educational credit with which the President can be identified," including the precedent-setting education summit held this fall in Charlottesville, Va.
Asked to assess Mr. Cavazos' performance to date, the committee chairman described the Secretary as a "fine, honorable man" of "good motives" who is hamstrung by political constraints.
"I think if he were not restrained, he probably would do very well," Mr. Hawkins said. "He's trying to do a good job in a very desperate sort of way."
Representative Hawkins predicted that a conflict between the Secretary's ideals and the Administration's policies would force Mr. Cavazos to resign before the end of the Bush term.
He compared the Cavazos situation to that of former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, who in his book The Thirteenth Man, described how a conflict between conscience and politics forced him to resign in 1985.
In his statement, the Secretary countered Mr. Hawkins's assertions, saying, "I take great honor and consider it a privilege to serve President Bush. I share his vision of and commitment to excellence in education for all."
In his critique of the President's education policies, Mr. Hawkins charged that "the role of the President and his Administration has been detached, if not negative."
He called for increased federal efforts in the areas of mathematics and science education, teacher training, and bilingual and literacy programs.
He also called on the federal government to fully fund "cost-effective programs like Chapter 1 and Head Start," to "finish the job of desegregating the schools," and to provide incentives for improvement "in every school, not just rewarding a few so-called 'merit schools'."
The Hawkins remarks were made as the Education and Labor Committee held a two-day "Symposium on the Status of Education in America and Directions for the Future."
In an unusual departure from procedure, committee members were barred from questioning the group of 15 witnesses who gave testimony. They included business leaders and educators as well as federal officials.
In an interview last week, Mr. Hawkins said the ban was imposed to prevent lawmakers from asking "leading questions" and to help the committee get "an objective point of view" on the state of education.
The information, he added, will be presented in the form of a report to the Education Department.