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With Death of O.E.R.I. Bill, Reorganization Put Off

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WASHINGTON--Researchers and Education Department officials last week lamented that the death of legislation to reauthorize the department's office of educational research and improvement may put off for two years any substantial reorganization of the agency.

"The unfortunate aspect of it is, O.E.R.I. needs an authorization and a new structure to get from where it is to where it needs to be,'' said Gerald E. Sroufe, the director of government and professional liaison for the American Educational Research Association.

Until that occurs, he said, "it will be running in place, paddling to keep its head up.''

The House last month agreed to a compromise version of reauthorization legislation that was aimed at insuring quick passage by incorporating changes requested by the Senate and the Bush Administration. (See Education Week, Sept. 30, 1992.)

But the Senate, which was headed for adjournment late last week, never took up the House bill.

Senate aides said the O.E.R.I. bill fell victim to the crush of last-minute Congressional business. In contrast to the research bill, they said, Senators placed a higher priority on the proposed "neighborhood schools improvement act'' and devoted their attention to that measure, which died near the end of the session.

But the aides also noted that the O.E.R.I. will continue to operate next year, even though its authority has technically expired, since Congress provided funds for it in the appropriations bill for the department.

Diane S. Ravitch, the assistant secretary of education for educational research and improvement, said Congress's treatment of the O.E.R.I. bill reflects the low priority of the office in lawmakers' eyes.

"Nobody cares about us. That's why [the reauthorization died]'' she said. "We just are not important.''

"We were held hostage all year long to other things that were more important,'' she added.

Mr. Sroufe suggested that a reauthorization bill may suffer the same fate next year, when the new 103rd Congress considers the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As a result, he said, the O.E.R.I. may not be reorganized until 1994.

"My major fear is that it will be two years before O.E.R.I. is reauthorized,'' Mr. Sroufe said. "They really missed an excellent opportunity.''--òŸòŸ

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