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Federal File: New job for Bennett; Special favors

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An aide to William J. Bennett last week confirmed reports that the former Secretary of Education is slated to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Bennett, who recently resigned from the position of national drug-policy director, would replace the ailing Lee Atwater.

Some observers have speculated that the outspoken Mr. Bennett was tapped for the job to prevent him from becoming a critic of the Administration--or even a challenger to President Bush in the 1992 election.

Mr. Bennett did not officially become a Republican until 1986, almost a year after he became education secretary. Although he has never run for public office, he has made no secret of his interest in doing so.

Appropriations bills often include favors for schools located in influential lawmakers' districts. But Congressional largesse in this year's bills apparently was limited to guarantees for several school systems dependent on impact aid.

The Education Department spending bill, for example, permits the Hatboro Horsham public schools in Horsham, Pa., to receive funding in the current fiscal year under a program for districts with land that was bought by the government after 1938. To be eligible, the land must have constituted at least 10 percent of the area's property-tax base at the time of purchase.

The Pennsylvania district was declared eligible in 1943. But a few years ago, auditors decided that the property assessment on which the district's application had been based was incorrect, said John Forkenbrock, executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.

The district has appealed, but needed Congressional intervention to claim its 1991 funds, which Mr. Forkenbrock said would total about $550,000.

Other impact-aid districts were favored in the Defense Department spending bill.

A 1988 law made most districts affected by military bases eligible for money from a D.O.D. account intended for particularly hard-hit districts and also funds the schools operated directly by the department.

But the D.O.D. refused to provide funds for the new applicants this year, according to Mr. Forkenbrock, so the appropriations bill sets aside $10 million for them.

It also specifically earmarks $1,053,000 for the Texas districts of Killeen and Copperas Cove.

Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Democrat of Texas, insisted on the provision, although the districts would probably have gotten the amounts guaranteed them without the special mention, Mr. Forkenbrock said.--JM

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