Outgoing Department Officials Lay Plans for New Pursuits

By Mark Pitsch — January 20, 1993 5 min read

While controversy over his 1990 attempt to ban race-based college scholarships dominated his tenure, Mr. Williams said, “it has given me some opportunities with my friends in the conservative movement.’'

As the Bush Administration’s appointees cleared out their offices last week, some Education Department officials said they have plans for academic, legal, corporate, or public-policy pursuits, while others have no firm idea of their future plans.

Lamar Alexander, the outgoing Secretary, is apparently drawing up an ambitious blueprint that will keep him firmly in the public eye. He said last week that he might run for the Presidency in 1996.

“If I can explain why I would like to do it and what I would want to accomplish, I might run in 1996,’' he told reporters after a forum on his tenure at the department sponsored by the Education Commission of the States.

As a prelude to his possible bid for the Presidency, Mr. Alexander said he plans to be actively involved in what political observers expect to be a contentious debate over the direction of the Republican Party.

“I’m going to help the Republican Party get on track,’' the former Tennessee Governor and University of Tennessee president said in a recent interview. He hopes to shape “an activist, progressive, populist idea of the party that focuses on what we’re for rather than what we’re against.’'

Mr. Alexander, who is considered moderate within the party, may find himself at odds with another former Secretary, William J. Bennett, who is an outspoken conservative and has also said he might have Presidential aspirations. Mr. Bennett last week joined with other leading Republicans in forming a policy organization that will tout conservative ideas. (See story, this page.)

Mr. Alexander will affiliate with a Nashville law firm during the next several weeks, he said, and does not plan to lobby in Washington.

He said he will write a book “about what I’ve learned about America’’ as Education Secretary.

David T. Kearns, the former Xerox executive whom Mr. Alexander chose to serve as his deputy, said he would like to continue his involvement in education issues.

Kearns: NASDC Board

Before joining the department, Mr. Kearns wrote Winning the Brain Race, with Denis P. Doyle of the Hudson Institute. The book argues that parental choice and higher standards could improve American schools and the nation’s economic productivity.

Mr. Kearns, who recently returned to work following treatment for cancer of the sinuses, said he hopes to affiliate with a major research university to write and lecture on a part-time basis.

He also plans to stay actively involved with the New American Schools Development Corporation, which has made grants to design teams seeking to create innovative schools. It is a private entity, largely funded and controlled by business interests, although it was formed at the behest of the Bush Administration to carry out a project on Mr. Alexander’s agenda.

Mr. Kearns said he has been asked to serve on NASDC’s board.

At the forum, he addressed speculation about the fate of the effort under the Clinton Administration.

It is important for NASDC “to get support, moral support, from the [new] Administration,’' Mr. Kearns said, adding, “I have every reason to believe we’ll get that.’'

In an interview, Mr. Kearns noted that some potential donors have said they would be more willing to donate money to the project now that it will appears less like a Republican political initiative.

On the other hand, he said, others have said “they don’t want to put money into something the President doesn’t support.’'

Ravitch: Book on Standards

Diane S. Ravitch, meanwhile, will join the Brookings Institution as a visiting scholar and plans to write a book on the changes taking place in American education, in particular the movement to develop national standards.

The outgoing assistant secretary for educational research and improvement said she expects to remain in Washington for a year while she completes the book, and then to move back to New York City to tackle other writing projects.

Ms. Ravitch said she is proud of her role in helping develop standards, and predicted that Congress will fund SMARTLINE, a department initiative to provide information on education reform and practices to schools across the country via a computer network.

Robert B. Okun, the assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs, will become a floor assistant to Rep. Robert H. Michel, R-Ill., the House minority leader.

Donald A. Laidlaw, the assistant secretary for human resources and administration, has joined the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation of Savannah, Ga., as the vice president for human resources.

Maria Hernandez Ferrier, the director of bilingual and minority language affairs, will return to her position as executive director of special programs in the Southwest Independent School District in San Antonio.

Jeffrey C. Martin, the former general counsel, has joined the Washington law firm of Shea and Gardner.

Mulling Options

Other top officials, however, said through department spokesmen that they are still weighing future plans or have no immediate plans.

They include John T. MacDonald, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education; Bruno V. Manno, the assistant secretary for policy and planning; William D. Hansen, the assistant secretary for management and budget and chief financial officer; Lanny Griffith, the assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs; Robert R. Davila, the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitation services; and Betsy Brand, the assistant secretary for vocational and adult education.

Carolynn Reid-Wallace, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said last week that she would be interested in a college presidency.

Michael L. Williams, the assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a recent interview that he is looking at options that would enable him to work part time in Washington and part time in his home state of Texas in the areas of law and public policy.

While controversy over his 1990 attempt to ban race-based college scholarships dominated his tenure, Mr. Williams said, “it has given me some opportunities with my friends in the conservative movement.’'

Washington Editor Julie A. Miller contributed to this story.

A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 1993 edition of Education Week as Outgoing Department Officials Lay Plans for New Pursuits