John F. Jennings, who has worked for the House Education and Labor Committee since 1967, said last week that he will leave the committee at the end of 1994, when the 103rd Congress ends.
He has worked for Rep. William D. Ford, D-Mich., the current chairman, as well as two former chairmen, Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins, D-Calif., and Rep. Carl D. Perkins, D-Ky.
Mr. Jennings, currently the panel's general counsel for education, announced his retirement rather casually at an Education Department-sponsored conference on Chapter 1.
He was sharing the dais with colleagues from the House and Senate, who offered their perspectives on the department's proposal to reauthorize the program, and even some of them were surprised by the news.
"That was the first I'd heard of it,'' said an aide to Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee.
In an interview, Mr. Jennings said it was time to go.
"Twenty-seven years in basically the same position is long enough,'' he said.
He considered leaving the committee last December, but changed his mind when it appeared that a string of important issues was on the committee's agenda, including reauthorization of Head Start and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and school-to-work legislation.
"It was just too enticing to be around these two years with all of these initiatives,'' he said.
Mr. Jennings said Clinton Administration officials had earlier approached him about working for the Education Department, but that he declined. "I figured I'd be more useful up here,'' he said.
Mr. Jennings said he is likely to remain in Washington, and that he has had discussions with possible employers about his post-Congressional options.
"The easiest thing to do would be to join a law firm,'' he said. "The next easiest thing to do would be to work for a national association.''
In the meantime, Mr. Jennings will be using his free time to edit five books on federal education policy.
Published by Phi Delta Kappa and the Institute for Educational Leadership, the books will focus on specific legislation that Congress will consider over the next two years--community service and direct lending, school to work, school reform, the E.S.E.A., and Head Start--and include essays by the principal players in each piece of legislation.
For example, direct lending will be discussed by: Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine M. Kunin; Mr. Ford; Mr. Goodling; John Dean, the general counsel for the Consumer Bankers Association; and Tom Butts of the University of Michigan. Mr. Jennings will write a concluding essay.
Administration officials used the Chapter 1 conference last week to introduce state and local directors to their E.S.E.A. reauthorization proposal.
But they were perhaps a bit surprised by the remarks of one of their key speakers, Mr. Hawkins.
Mr. Hawkins offered less than a ringing endorsement of the changes the Administration wants to make.
"I think we're doing a reasonably good job with the law as it is and as far as making changes I wish we'd be reluctant to do so,'' the former chairman said to a smattering of applause.
The existing law, which he said is not adequately funded, "represents years of research, years of hearings'' resulting in bipartisan support that could wane if the law is tinkered with too much.
Thomas Payzant, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, who followed Mr. Hawkins on the day's program, said the reauthorization will "build on the best of what has gone before and acknowledge that we need to do some things differently.''
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, meanwhile, was scheduled to travel to Oklahoma late last week to promote President Clinton's health-care plan.
The trip was to include a tour of a Claremore, Okla., Head Start center and a news conference to discuss the plan attended by Gov. David Walters and Rep. Mike Synar.
Mr. Riley's appearance was one of several by members of the President's Cabinet in support of the health-care proposal.
Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minn., a member of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, announced last week that he would step down from his post when his term expires at the end of 1994.
He follows another committee member, Howard M. Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, in planning to leave the Senate.
Mr. Durenberger, who is facing trial on charges of defrauding the government, has been a key player on education legislation that has come before the committee.
He was an important Republican supporter of President Clinton's national-service bill and direct-lending legislation.
Mr. Durenberger, whose state was the first to authorize independent, publicly funded charter schools, has also been an advocate of that idea at the federal level.--M.P.