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Federal File: A strong denial; Pet projects

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Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos said last week that he was at a loss to explain the persistence of rumors of his imminent departure from the Cabinet.

Apparently fed up with the gossip, the Secretary gave an uncharacteristically vehement response when a reporter raised the issue after a meeting on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

"I wish to hell we could put it to bed," Mr. Cavazos said.

"I've had just a marvelous working relationship with the President,'' he said, adding that Mr. Bush "has never raised" the idea of an early departure.

Rumors aired in the national press and whispered among Washington observers have had Mr. Cavazos being replaced by someone with a higher profile.

"People often ask me the question about my own personal style," said Mr. Cavazos, a former president of Texas Tech University. "It's sort of hard for me to change my style. But think about higher education. ... It's a system of people coming together, of people building coalitions."

"People say, 'You don't pound on the table enough,"' the Secretary continued. "I can't think of anything in academia that has been moved ahead by pounding on tables."

Senator Nancy L. Kassebaum, ranking Republican on the Senate education subcommittee, opposes federal funding of a national board to set standards for the teaching profession.

But she apparently supports funding of a museum to honor teachers--especially if it's in her home state of Kansas.

When legislation authorizing $1 million in scholarships to send hearing-impaired students to Washington for seminars came up on the Senate floor, Ms. Kassebaum cosponsored an amendment that added a $3- million authorization for a"National Teachers Hall of Fame," to be located at Emporia State University.

She was not the only senator to add a pet project to the bill.

The amendment's other sponsor was Senator Claiborne Pell, the Rhode Island Democrat who chairs the subcommittee. The measure would also authorize $5- million for the Narragansett Bay Center for the Study of Coastal Ecosystems at the University of Rhode Island.

In addition, it called for a total of $17.2 million in aid for assorted libraries, museums, and research projects in four other states.

If the provisions survive the legislative process, their sponsors would still have to fight for funding in next year's appropriations cycle.

--mw& jm

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