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Federal File: New thinking; Continuity?; Empowerment

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Two outgoing Education Department officials said last week that they had opposed using public funds for private school vouchers when they joined the Bush Administration.

Diane S. Ravitch, the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, said she later decided that a lack of choice "just forced kids to go to bad schools.''

Carolynn Reid-Wallace, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said she changed her mind when she learned the details of President Bush's most recent choice plan, which would have given parents $1,000 vouchers. Because they could have used the vouchers at public or private schools, or for supplementary services, she said, "I came to realize it would not be taking anything away from the public schools.''

They made their remarks at a "debriefing'' session with departing E.D. officials organized by the Education Commission of the States.

Bill Clinton may be planning to continue some of Mr. Bush's America 2000 initiatives.

In a Dec. 27 letter to Lanny Griffith, the outgoing assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, the President-elect said: "I'm encouraged by positive signs that our joint efforts are bearing fruit. You can be assured that the America 2000 strategy will continue to be an important part of my efforts to improve education. ...''

He was replying to a routine letter Mr. Griffith sent to each governor.


Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett has joined several other prominent Republicans in an effort to revitalize the American conservative movement.

Mr. Bennett, outgoing Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack F. Kemp, and former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick are the directors of Empower America, a new organization that will push a conservative message on foreign, economic, and domestic policy, while seeking to avoid such divisive issues as abortion.

The group will be led by former U.S. Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn. Its advisory board includes Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina and former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, both known for their work in education.

The group will issue policy papers and a series on "what works'' in education and other areas, Mr. Bennett said last week. The group will push state and local reforms over federal solutions, he said.--J.M. & M.W.

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