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Federal File: Report Card's Ins And Outs; Winds Of Change

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The National Education Goals Panel's first report card, issued last week, includes in a list of panel members three members of the Congress.

This is noteworthy because four lawmakers were named ex-officio members of the panel when it was created by the Bush Administration and the National Governors' Association.

Emily Wurtz, a member of the panel's staff, said that all four lawmakers--the Senate majority and minority leaders, the Speaker of the House, and the House minority leader--were asked if they wanted their names appended to the report, and that only Senator George J. Mitchell declined.

The Maine Democrat said "he felt he had not participated," Ms. Wurtz said.

However, she acknowledged that the other Congressional members had not participated, either. Ms. Wurtz said she thinks Representative Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the House majority leader, attended one meeting.

The panel has always had a tense relationship with the Congress, where some members--among them, Mr. Mitchell--have complained that it is insufficiently independent and demanded that educators be included.

"There obviously is a whole can of worms that comes with the question" of who is named in the report, Ms. Wurtz said.

The Department of Education's community-outreach office late last month underwent yet another permutation in its quest for a niche in the federal bureaucracy.

But with ex-businessman David T. Kearns in the deputy secretary's seat, Gail D. Niedernhofer, the director of what is now called the office of corporate liaison, is confident her little-known corner of the government will soon be growing.

Eighteen months ago, the office of private sector initiatives became the office of corporate and community liaison. After all, Ms. Niedernhofer said, with no money and no real initiatives, the original name "sounded a little too ambitious."

Last month, the four-person office's ambitions were trimmed again when the word "community" was dropped from its name. But with Mr. Kearns beseiged by phone calls from his old colleagues in business, Ms. Niedernhofer said, her office is busier than ever.

And whereas the office used to merely help interested businesses link up with education partnerships, the Administration's America 2000 strategy has given it a broader mandate.

"Now we don't stop at asking them to become a part of a partnership," she said. "Now we're trying to get them to be the leaders." --J.M. & J.W.

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