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Federal File: Overreaction; Pious politics; Lying low

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Washington interest groups commonly scramble to react to a significant event quickly, hoping to get reporters' attention by getting to them first.

The American Association of School Administrators went the extra mile last week, faxing out a response to the President's State of the Union Message nine hours before he delivered it.

In a speech last week to the National Religious Broadcasters' annual convention, President Bush said he has not "lessened my commitment to restoring 7 voluntary prayer in our schools."

He praised the "belief that students who go to school to nourish their minds should also be allowed to nourish their souls."

But his Administration has made no effort to restore school prayer, which would probably be shot down by the Congress.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Michael L. Williams has been keeping a low profile.

He shocked the education and civil-rights communities in December by pronouncing race-exclusive scholarships illegal, then saying they are illegal unless funded by private sources.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Williams canceled a Dec. 19 appearance before the House Education and Labor Committee.

Upon his return, Mr. Williams canceled a Jan. 10 appearance at a National Association for Bilingual Education meeting. A spokesman said he was called to Kansas City, where the office for civil rights has a regional office.

Mr. Williams is still ? unavailable for comment.--jm & mp

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