Federal File: A Bush appearance?; Cavazos Elementary; An uncertain position; Unusual

October 18, 1989 3 min read

Education Department sources have been hinting for several weeks that President Bush may attend one of the six regional meetings on parental choice the department has scheduled for this fall.

When asked about the rumor last week at a press briefing, a spokesman for Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos offered a careful response.

“The White House is aware of [the meetings], and it could happen. But there’s certainly nothing definite about it right now,” Mahlon Anderson said. “There certainly is White House interest, but no definite commitment.”

The citizens of Odessa, Tex., recently honored Secretary Cavazos, a native of their state, by naming an elementary school after him.

According to a department spokesman, 800 students and teachers attended the Oct. 5 dedication ceremony, which featured an appearance by Mr. Cavazos.

Second-graders had prepared a presentation entitled “Who is Dr. Cavazos?” and an accompanying photo album for the Secretary.

Mr. Cavazos and his wife, Peggy, also received stuffed versions of the school’s mascot, a cougar. That means, of course, that the school’s teams will be the Cavazos Cougars.

In addition, the spokesman said, the country singer Rudy Gatlin, who “has taken a fondness to the Secretary,” sang at the ceremony.

The school district also dedicated new elementary schools named for two other prominent Texans, Lyndon B. Johnson and former U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan.

Hours of debate in the House this month failed to establish whether the National Governors’ Association has a unified position on child-care standards--and which child-care proposal best addresses it.

The House ultimately approved a child-care package that would require states to set standards. But not before proponents of substitute bills that would not require such rules tried to bolster their position by claiming gubernatorial opposition to a federal role in child-care regulation.

In an Oct. 3 letter to Representative E. Clay Shaw, Republican of Florida, n.g.a. Executive Director Raymond C. Scheppach backed a substitute measure offered by Mr. Shaw and Representative Charles W. Stenholm, a Texas Democrat.

“Only your bill is consistent with the governors’ child-care policy,” Mr. Sheppach stated.

On Oct. 4, however, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, who is designated one of the association’s “lead governors” on the child-care issue, wrote a letter of his own to Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, the California Democrat who is chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.

He told Mr. Hawkins that “neither I nor to my knowledge any other Democratic governor authorized” a letter endorsing the Stenholm bill and added that he personally would support HR 3, the bill developed by Mr. Hawkins’s panel, with some concessions on standards.

Mr. Scheppach told Congressional Quarterly that the wording in his letter to Mr. Stenholm was a mistake, and that it should not have said the Stenholm bill was the “only” one consistent with nga policy.

But that did not satisfy nine Democratic governors who wrote an Oct. 4 letter to House Speaker Thomas S. Foley stating that even the corrected version of Mr. Scheppach’s letter “does not represent the views of many governors.”

Mr. Scheppach wrote again to all governors Oct. 4, noting that for the past year “the lead governors on child care” had lobbied for a bill with no federal mandates, and outlining the mandates in HR 3.

House leaders were so concerned that church-state issues would derail the child-care package that they took the unusual step of assuring members that they would make concessions to the Senate.

The majority leader, Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, circulated a letter to that effect shortly before the vote on the child-care provisions, which include language barring religious institutions from using federal child-care aid for sectarian worship or instruction.

The Senate’s bill would let parents use child-care vouchers for religious child care.

House leaders spoke with every Democratic member, “and the message that came through loud and clear was that it was that issue that was giving a lot of members a real problem,” an aide said, calling it “a make-or-break issue.”

But Michael Edwards, manager of Congressional relations for the National Education Association, claimed that an n.e.a. vote tally showed that the leadership’s move was unnecessary.

“The decision to circulate this letter was motivated much more by staving off the appearance of another floor defeat than with the substantive outcome of this issue,” he said.

Mr. Hawkins has not agreed to yield on the church-state issue, an aide said, but “he recognizes that he’s going to have to do some compromising.”

--jm, dc, & pw

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A version of this article appeared in the October 18, 1989 edition of Education Week as Federal File: A Bush appearance?; Cavazos Elementary; An uncertain position; Unusual