Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander began traveling the campaign trail this summer, making several trips to stump for the re-election of President Bush.
Mr. Alexander has made numerous appearances with Mr. Bush that had political overtones, such as visits to schools to promote the Administration's America 2000 strategy. But he has not made a practice of mixing official travel with Republican fund-raisers, something former Secretary William J. Bennett did as a matter of course. Mr. Alexander said earlier this year that he intended to keep official and political travel separate.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Alexander will prove as popular a campaigner as Mr. Bennett, who was in great demand as a speaker at GOP events and spent a great deal of time stumping for the party's candidates.
Former Secretary Lauro F. Cavazos, who succeeded Mr. Bennett and preceded Mr. Alexander, was appointed in the fall of 1988, and spent most of his first months in office campaigning in his home state of Texas for Mr. Bush. Critics charged that he was selected primarily for that purpose.
President Bush's Democratic challenger, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, last week proposed an educational trust fund for young people who are not college-bound.
In a speech at Montgomery County Community College in Maryland, Mr. Clinton called on the federal government, states, and businesses to establish a trust fund to help high school graduates who do not plan to go to a four-year institution pay for two years of training at a community college, a vocational institute, or a private business.
Mr. Clinton also discussed more familiar plans for a college trust fund and a requirement that U.S. businesses spread retraining funds throughout their workforce or pay into a fund for retraining of the unemployed.
President Bush attacked the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. William D. Ford, during a recent visit to the lawmaker's home state of Michigan.
"I'm a little tired of Congressmen that talk one way in Michigan and vote differently in Washington,'' Mr. Bush said in Canton, Mich.
"I'll give you an example,'' he said. "One of those Democratic leaders that blocked this new proposal in education is named Congressman Ford, Bill Ford. He has stood against school choice and just about every education reform I have put forward. And what's worse, the Governor of Arkansas agrees with him.''
The two major teachers' unions, the only education groups that can directly support political candidates, usually back the same ones. But they diverged in Pennsylvania last month.
The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican, for re-election, while the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate, decided to back Democrat Lynn Yeakel.
"It's a question of whether you go with a moderate Republican who's been fairly good on your issues or proceed on the assumption that it's more important to elect Democrats who may do something more,'' an NEA official said.