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New Committee Chairman Outlines Agenda, Basks in the Spotlight

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The almost-certain new chairman of the House education panel warned against using federal aid to help students pay for private schooling, carefully negotiated questions on school prayer and proposals to abolish the Education Department--and appeared intoxicated by the attentions of more than 100 journalists, photographers, and television cameramen at a news conference last week.

"Some have asked if I am ready to lead this committee," said Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., referring to the House Education and Labor Committee, where he has been the ranking Republican since 1989.

"I think I have earned that opportunity. I think I have been well prepared over the last 20 years," he said. "I am more than ready, and I know exactly where I would like to go."

Mr. Goodling's ascension to the panel's chairmanship was all but formally announced last week.

With the House Republican leadership in the process of reorganizing committees and reviewing who will assume their leadership, some panels appear headed for consolidation and some veterans reportedly may be pushed aside in favor of more conservative members with less seniority.

But Mr. Goodling, a moderate, was introduced by Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, who is heading the House Republicans' transition team, as "the next chairman of the Education and Labor Committee."

The panel will probably retain jurisdiction over education and labor issues, but its purview may encompass other elements as well once the reoganization is completed. Mr. Goodling said its name may change to the Empowerment Committee or the Education and Workplace Policy Committee.

Sunsets and Consolidation

Mr. Goodling reiterated his intention to review all federal education programs and, brandishing a recent stack of Federal Registers, said he will insist on "local control" of education. (See Education Week, 11/16/94.)

In addition, he said he would like to "sunset" some education programs, or rewrite laws so that they expire after a specific period of time.

Mr. Goodling said he would like to eliminate the practice of reauthorizing established programs almost automatically.

"Reauthorization is an indication that everything is just fine," he said.

He also said that some school programs may be consolidated.

Mr. Goodling also:

Expressed skepticism about voucher programs that include private schools.

"I don't want people to think competition is any easier in education than it is in business," he said, adding that he "doesn't want to give the federal government an excuse" to regulate private and parochial schools.

Said that he went to a two-room Pennsylvania school where prayers were said daily--but sidestepped a question about his stance on school prayer.

"My personal opinion is that if we move ahead with hearings I believe the Istook language could serve the purpose and not offend a lot of people," Mr. Goodling said, referring to a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Ernest Jim Istook, R-Okla. (See related story)

But he also said that he opposes a "one-size-fits-all Christian prayer."

(See Education Department, an idea that was vigorously promoted under the Reagan Administration, is not a Republican priority. "I don't believe that is on our [agenda for the] first 100 days," he said. "I don't think my leadership will want to spend a great deal of time dealing with the past."

Mr. Goodling said he voted against establishing the department in 1979, but not whether he had changed his mind. He did say he wants to insure that the agency "does not interfere with the operation of local school districts."

Staff Writer Robert C. Johnston contributed to this story.

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