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Ballot Box: Perot speaks; Singleton win

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Ross Perot last week offered a glimpse of what he would say on the stump should he declare an independent Presidential candidacy, delivering a speech on education to a group of money managers that was light on policy details, heavy on folksy humor, grounded in business-management philosophy, and sprinkled with apparent inconsistencies.

For example, Mr. Perot implied several times that it is not necessary to spend more on education, contending that the nation is "buying a first-class ticket but not getting first-class results.''

Nationally, "135,000 children carry weapons to school each day,'' he said. "If you don't fix that, don't bother spending more money on education.''

But Mr. Perot also advocated expensive reforms such as a longer school year, smaller schools, and a large-scale program of early-childhood education for disadvantaged children.

"We have a huge sector of society where children essentially have no home life,'' he said.

He called on the nation to "clean up schools of education,'' but did not elaborate. He said schools spend too much money on extracurricular activities and not enough on academics, but did not say how he would change the situation as President.

Mr. Perot, a billionaire entrepreneur, urged business executives to bring their management skills to the task of running school boards. When he headed a Texas school-reform commission, he said, he found the schools lacking in basic management techniques, with no goals and objectives, no management philosophy, no information system, and no accountability mechanisms.

"That's like flying a 747 through the mountains at night with no instruments,'' Mr. Perot said.

He struck a "back to basics'' tone, contending that the nation needs retrainable workers to be competitive, a situation that he said calls for "a classic education.'' He ridiculed courses that were offered in Texas, like motorcycle riding and bicycle repair, and a rule that allowed unlimited absences to students attending livestock fairs.

Mr. Perot said he learned of a student in Dallas who "kept a chicken in the bathtub'' and missed 65 days one year.

"The chicken was so stressed out from traveling, he was losing his feathers,'' Mr. Perot said.

The speech, delivered at a meeting of the Association of Investment Management and Research, also included several jabs at Mr. Bush.

Mr. Perot did not mention the President by name, but said that educational problems will not be solved by "a two-day summit'' or by "reading to a child for an hour.''


Harry M. Singleton, who served as the Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights during the Reagan Administration, last week became the first black to be elected national committeeman of the District of Columbia Republican Party.

The holder of the post, which is filled during primary elections in the District, has a delegate's seat at the party's national convention.

Mr. Singleton defeated Michael Doud Gill, who had held the job since 1980, in what The Washington Post termed a "nasty fight.'' He vowed to bring new blood into the local G.O.P., which has relatively few members in the District.

Mr. Gill accused Mr. Singleton of being a closet liberal.

Mr. Singleton lost to Eleanor Holmes Norton in 1990 in the race for the District's Congressional delegate seat.--J.M.

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