Federal File: Secretarial summit; Errata; Fault finding

November 06, 1991 1 min read

All four former U.S. secretaries of education will participate this week in a discussion of education policy and the current state of education.

It will be the first such gathering. It will also be the first high-profile public appearance by Lauro F. Cavazos since he was ousted from the Education Department by White House officials almost a year ago.

The College Board organized the event as part of a national forum, and an edited version of the discussion is to air in December on public television.

The current secretary, Lamar Alexander, will not be present to promote his policies, but he is to address the conference two days before the unusual panel discussion.

Also scheduled to attend are Shirley M. Hufstedler, Terrel H. Bell, and William J. Bennett.

At an education forum in Des Moines last month, Mr. Alexander was asked by a reporter to comment on Savage Inequalities, a book by Jonathan Kozol that decries inequities between affluent and poor school districts and proposes a federal remedy.

“if he were right, the Washington, D.C., schools would be the best in the country,” Mr. Alexander said. “All their money is federal, and they have the highest per-pupil spending in America.”

But much of the D.C. government’s funds are raised through local taxes.

And the District’s per-pupil expenditure--$6,146 in 2989, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics--is far from the highest in the nation.

Many large cities spend more, and wealthy, suburban districts that spend $8,000 or $9,000 per pupil are not uncommon.

Mr. Alexander often says that parents are not doing enough at home to promote their children’s education.

But he reportedly went further at an event last month in Nashville, arguing that women choosing to work outside the home hurt American students’ educational performance more than any other factor.

“The most important thing that happened in the 70’s and 80’s was the large number of women who went from being at home to working outside the home,” the Secretary said, according to the Nashville Banner.

“That’s not Mom’s fault, but we haven’t kept up with the changing workforce,” Mr. Alexander reportedly said. “We’re not spending as much time caring for and raising children and giving them support at home, and that’s creating a lot more problems in schools.” --J.M.

A version of this article appeared in the November 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Federal File: Secretarial summit; Errata; Fault finding