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Ballot Box: Surrogate Blues; Child Support

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Education lobbyists are giving negative reviews to President Bush's campaign for its surrogate speakers.

At a recent conference of the American Association of School Administrators, the campaign of the Democratic challenger, Bill Clinton, was represented by Keith B. Geiger, the president of the National Education Association.

The Bush campaign sent Peter Nelsen, the chairman of the International Trade Council.

While Mr. Geiger outlined Mr. Clinton's education agenda, Mr. Nelsen talked about how poorly U.S. schools perform, and "evidenced no familiarity with the issues,'' said Bruce Hunter, the A.A.S.A.'s senior associate director.

While many of those attending are Republicans, Mr. Hunter said, the audience was miffed enough at Mr. Nelsen's performance to applaud Mr. Geiger.

Mr. Nelsen then suggested that they favored Mr. Geiger because they were N.E.A. members--not a politic thing to say to administrators.

The previous week, the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools arranged a similar session.

The Clinton campaign sent Robert Hardesty, a former president of Southwest University, and the Bush campaign sent Tom Gann, the chief of staff for Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif.

John Forkenbrock, the association's executive director, said Mr. Hardesty was more knowledgeable about his candidate's education ideas and about impact aid.

Mr. Gann attacked Mr. Clinton's record as Governor of Arkansas by citing the state's student-test scores.

Mr. Forkenbrock said Mr. Gann also cited increases in impact aid, which irked the audience, which knew that Mr. Bush had tried to cut the program's funding.

In interviews, Mr. Nelsen and Mr. Gann said they made no pretense of being education experts, and thought they had been asked to talk generally about the campaign.

"They just don't have an expert on each of 80 or 90 subject areas each group could be interested in,'' Mr. Nelsen said.

He said he thought the administrators were former N.E.A. members, as most of them had probably been teachers.

Mr. Gann said Mr. Bush's education budgets have been fairly generous, and suggested that Mr. Forkenbrock might have a partisan bias.

"The other guy was no expert either,'' Mr. Gann said. "All he said was 'Clinton will do well by impact aid.' ''

President Bush led in one poll last week: the Weekly Reader's survey, which has picked each Presidential winner since 1956.

Of 600,000 readers polled, 55 percent chose Mr. Bush and 39 percent backed Mr. Clinton. Ross Perot was not a contender at the time the poll was taken.

Mr. Bush received heavy support from students in grades K-4.--J.M.

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